The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has officially banned outdoor patio dining in the state due to COVID-19. Some restaurants across the state were still offering takeout patio dining.
On Thursday, Jeanette Evans, owner of the Mad Batter Kitchen in downtown Sylva, was setting up for takeout dining. Evans says that the Jackson County Health Department had come by to explain the ban for the kitchen and the Lazy Hiker Taproom, as well as provide some protocol for customers to safely eat takeout.
“Yes, she recommended that we put all of our tables six feet apart and our patio is big so that wasn’t a problem,” says Evans, additionally explaining sanitation protocols.
But hours later the state health department tightened restrictions after the first case of coronavirus in North Carolina was reported from what’s known as ‘community spread.’ Macon County Public Health Department spokesperson Emily Ritter explains:
“Community spread means that people are contracting that disease from people locally. They aren’t having to travel to go and get it,” says Ritter.
Both Macon and Jackson County sent out updates to local restaurants this morning to let them know about the change.
For City Lights Cafe owner Beradette Peters this was the last straw. She announced the Sylva staple closed on Friday afternoon. Peters says community health and financial reasons were both factors in the decision:
“We love our community so much and we just want people to be able to survive the best way that we can,” says Peters. She says the the cafe will be donating their fresh food to local pantry The Community Table.
City Lights Bookstore will remain open for now, with a 9-person browsing capacity. Update: The bookstore is only open for phone orders and curbside pick-up.
This is one of the first closures on Main Street in Sylva. Melissa McKnight of the Jackson County Health Department says that public health workers are thankful for local restaurant’s cooperation.
“I just want to let local restaurants know that this is a very fluid situation and updates are coming very quickly at us. If they have any questions please reach out,” says McKnight.
Buncombe County restricted patio dining earlier this week.