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Charlottesville restaurant manager trying to make indoor dining safer

Before the pandemic, The Local had 400 customers during weekends. Now, they’re lucky if they see half of that.
Credit WVIR
Credit WVIR(WVIR)
Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 2:47 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - With sales down and capacities cut in half, The Local in Charlottesville is trying to figure out how to make indoor dining safer with COVID-19 cases still in the air.

“I told everyone, I said there’s no way we can’t figure out if we put our heads together and do some hard work how we can make indoor dining safer,” The Local manager, John Allen said.

Before the pandemic, The Local had 400 customers during weekends. Now, they’re lucky if they see half of that.

“Business was booming. We just had Restaurant Week in February, Valentine’s Day just happened, and honestly the quantity of business was kind of amazing,” Allen said.

When doors had to shut in March, Allen got to work.

“I started to explore the possibility of how to make indoor dining safer because obviously it’s a unique challenge,” Allen said.

After extensive research, Allen came up with a detailed document about air circulation and ventilation to improve the safety of indoor dining. He’s sharing his findings with Charlottesville City Council and nearby restaurants.

“I kind of did a dive into that and what I came up with was the answer is better ventilation and increasing the clean air flow of your space reduces the viral load. We bought seven large room air purifiers and we plan on having five spread throughout these three rooms and one in one of our smaller dining rooms,” Allen said.

Allen says the goal is to draw in fresh air and not let stale air recirculate.

“Right now, we’re in talks with some contractors to do some work bringing in ducting to turn our heaters into fresh air heaters,” Allen said.

Researching air ventilation wasn’t in Allen’s dining plans, but he’s grateful for the lessons learned.

“Maybe the ones that make it through all of this will be made stronger for it,” Allen said.

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