Bars and restaurants open for the first time for a pandemic St. Patrick’s Day

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 1:03 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - For the first time during the pandemic, bars and restaurants held St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. That’s because one year ago the governor limited crowds to 10 or fewer.

Students got an early start Wednesday because it was one of Virginia Tech’s spring break days. The break was separated throughout the semester to discourage travel. This time last year, the students never returned from spring break.

Bars and restaurants were excited to have the customers this year and had measures in place to keep them safe.

“That was a major curveball for us,” Vice President of the Roanoke Regional Restaurant Group Jerry Smith said. “We really didn’t know how to handle it, so we actually closed for six weeks until we could get a better hold and understanding of COVID and how that was going to impact our region.”

Centro Taco had just opened its doors two weeks before the pandemic kicked into full gear.

Since then, it’s been about rebuilding that customer base.

“We are super fortunate that we are able to actually have guests dine into the building this year,” Torrece Gregorie, also known as ‘Chef T.’ said. “It’s gonna cost us a little bit more now, but before we think that this pandemic could end up, you know, it’s well worth it.”

Having students back is a welcome change by both businesses; accommodations have been made for outdoor dining to stay warm with outdoor fire pits, and tables are separated to keep groups inside to themselves.

Centro Taco is limiting how long people can stay to have fun.

“A normal table comes and stays for like an hour or so, but as soon as they pay their checks we give them 15 minutes to vacate the building so we can turn that table over so someone else can come and enjoy it, " Smith said.

At the end of the day, luck came their way this March 17.

“We are right at turning a corner, and we just want you to know that we appreciate your patronage; we’re doing our part to make sure that you stay safe,” Chef. T said.

Both businesses go through a special, deep cleaning process once a week to also help with limiting the spread of germs.

Despite the interesting year Centro Taco had opening, Smith said they’re expanding into the building next door and will become the largest bar downtown by Cinco de Mayo.

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