Updated: May 12
by James Clark--- Editor for the Southern Standard
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee asked restaurant owners to keep their dining rooms at 50 percent capacity, but acknowledged there would be no enforcement of this suggestion. The result is uneven safety practices throughout the state.
In Sevierville, Tony Gore’s Smoky Mountain BBQ & Grill was using an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of customers and employees, the Associated Press reported. The restaurant general manager said customers didn’t have a problem with the mild inconvenience.
While many Warren County restaurants were eager to reopen Monday, several around Middle Tennessee opted to reopen later.
In calling popular spots around the Midstate, the Standard learned Buffalo Wild Wings in Tullahoma doesn’t plan to open its dining room for a couple more weeks.
Demo’s Italian Restaurant in Murfreesboro says its dining room will reopen this Friday, May 1. Toots in Murfreesboro plans to reopen its dining room Wednesday afternoon. In Warren County, there were plenty of hugs and smiles to go around Monday as Medley’s Diner reopened after a six-week closure due to COVID-19. Gov. Bill Lee announced last week that restaurant dining rooms could begin reopening Monday and suggested they operate at 50 percent capacity.
Joan Jordan couldn’t wait to give Billy Medley a hug when she walked into Medley’s Diner for lunch on Monday.
“She was my kindergarten teacher,” said Billy, owner of the popular diner in Morrison. “It’s been great to see all my regular customers again.”
Local residents showed no apprehension about the possibility of exposing themselves to the virus as they walked through the front door at Medley’s in packs. Billy said he had no idea what to expect.
“We opened at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t have our first customer for an hour,” adds Billy. “So I was sitting here thinking ‘Uh oh. This isn’t good.’ When you’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, you’re not used to that unknown factor, not knowing what to expect. But people started coming in at 6:30 a.m. and they haven’t stopped. We just looked at our numbers and it was a normal breakfast for us. I didn’t know if people would be apprehensive or what, but I guess they’ve been penned up for so long they’re ready to get out.”
Carolyn Elrod was happy to be out of the house and eating from someone else’s kitchen. “I’m tired of eating my own cooking,” Carolyn said.
Third-grader Noah Terry was glad to eat breakfast with his aunt, Sherrie Terry. He even grabbed a piece of pecan pie.
Said Sherrie, “We come here pretty regularly so we’ve been missing it.”
At Three Star Mall, J’s Restaurant opened at 10 a.m. Monday and had its first customers immediately.
“We got started right at 10 a.m. and we haven’t stopped,” said J’s owner Junior Petit on Monday afternoon. “It’s been good to see everybody again and good to hear the cash register go chaching.”
Petit said on Tuesday that Monday’s number were better than normal.
Tuesday was the first day Collins River BBQ on Main Street opened its dining room.
“We have the luxury of using our upstairs to keep people separated ifneeded,” said restaurant manager Jim Richter. “We’re still getting a lot of online orders today so people probably don’t know we’re open, but I’m sure it will pick up once people realize they can come in and eat.”