Downtown Culpeper opened a bit more this past weekend as the state slightly eased pandemic restrictions to allow for outdoor dining, haircuts by appointment and social distanced shopping.
Octogenarian Effie Foster dined Saturday morning at a small metal table outside the popular South Main Café with Mira Suddreth. The two women both donned masks after enjoying breakfast sandwiches made inside the tiny restaurant doing takeout only.
Suddreth didn’t think all the business restrictions were necessary for Culpeper.
“I don’t like it,” she said. “I could understand in a bigger town, but not here.”
As of Sunday, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District reports 707 cases of COVID-19, including 388 in Culpeper, 223 in Fauquier, 24 in Madison, 60 in Orange and 12 in Rappahannock. Eleven have died in the past two months of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the five counties.
Foster felt comfortable being in town.
“I don’t think it’s necessary if everybody would wash their hands and wear masks,” she said. “Do it with caution—limited people in stores, five or six at a time and if people would be considerate.”
Sarah Hays, owner of Quail at the Wood Antiques on North Main Street, said she never had to close her shop because it’s large enough to allow for ample space among customers.
“Social distancing is not a problem,” she said on Saturday, noting every morning she sanitizes the check-out desk with alcohol-based cleaner. “As soon as someone comes in, I put on a mask.”
Hays added, “Business has been nonexistent, terrible—not enough to survive.”
She is surviving by collecting state unemployment and is not eligible for federal PPE funds since she has no full-time employees. Hays has run Quail at the Wood in downtown Culpeper for 26 years, but she is uncertain about the future.
“I don’t know. It depends on how thorough we are cornering the virus before we have a vaccine,” she said. “I am expecting a terrible tsunami of cases still to come.”
Down Davis Street, several businesses that had been closed were open on a limited basis. Various restaurants continued to offer takeout and delivery. Outdoor dining was being used as well on the porch at Grass Rootes and in front of Raven’s Nest Coffee House.
The Thyme Alley was also back open with a sign, Please wait to be seated. Outside Knakal’s Bakery Saturday morning, customers waited in line for their turn to pick out sweets inside downtown’s longest-running bakery. Some retail stores still offered shopping by appointment only. Inside Frenchman’s Corner, chocolates and gelato were for sale.
Various hair salons or barbershops had open signs in the window, serving customers by appointment only and with social distancing. There was foot traffic on the street with many pedestrians wearing face masks.
Far Gohn Brewing Co. on East Street closed its beer drive-thru and started pouring beer in mugs on Saturday. According to a social media post, the small brewer sold more beer than ever during the time it closed its inside bar. Seating for now is limited to outside.
The Cameleer, one of downtown’s largest retailers, opened noon to 4 on Saturday, offering solo shopping slots by appointment at thecameleer.com. It also was promoting “Mystery Boxes.”
Felecia Chavez, beekeeper and proprietor at La Bee da Loca at 236 E. Davis St., stood inside her doorway Saturday hoping for the best. She has remained open, but business is down 90 percent, Chavez said.
“It’s a tough time for everybody,” she said. “It’s been slow. I don’t know what the answer is.”
Chavez took out a personal loan to try to stay and afloat.
“I am hoping that will see me through,” she said, adding, “It’s a choice to be open …. It’s always been people over profit, but don’t disrespect someone if they choose to be open or if they don’t. I am hoping it will pick up.”
As many restaurants and shops open on a very limited basis, it’s important to understand that many things may not be the same as they were just a couple of months ago, the local Main Street Program, Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. posted on social media recently.
“Restaurant menus may look different. There will be limited seating, a limited amount of shoppers allowed and possibly limited staff. Shop owners may require you to wear masks, follow social distancing guidelines and have different hours. Please respect their wishes and be kind to your servers and retail staff members,” the post stated.
Service may take longer in order to comply with new health guidelines, according to CRI: “Please try and understand everything will be new, even to the most experienced staff members. Things will take time.”