The bright red chairs that would normally seat family members of those getting a haircut or others waiting their turn were empty Friday.
The parking lot was full of patrons waiting in cars for their appointment to begin or for their relative who was getting a haircut.
Inside, customers and barbers alike wore masks over their faces. Customers called to set up appointments, and walk-ins had to wait outside if there was a spot available for them. But for the first time in two months, Lou’s Barber Shop in Danville was open for business.
“We’re going pretty steady,” owner Louis Williamson said Friday. “It’s overwhelming … trying to fit everybody into an 8-hour shift.”
As part of phase one of the reopening of Virginia, barbershops and salons were allowed to open at 50% capacity as long as people follow certain social distancing guidelines. Nonessential retail stores were also allowed to reopen, and restaurants could serve customers in outdoor seating, both at 50% capacity.
With the new guidelines coming into effect on Friday, many Danville businesses began operating again or opened their doors to the public for the first time in months to the delight of owners and customers. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered many businesses closed in late March in a statewide effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With metrics trending downward, the governor eased the state into phase one of reopening Friday.
Los Tres Magueyes, a Mexican restaurant in Danville, has a large enclosed patio area that can seat more than 60 people under normal circumstances. With the guidelines only allowing half capacity, the restaurant can now allow as many as 30 patrons at a time on their patio.
Josue Martinez, a manager at Los Tres Magueyes, said that business was extremely bad when the shutdowns first began, but the stimulus checks from the federal government helped their to-go business.
“The sales went up when people started getting their paychecks from the government,” he said.
On Friday, Eden, North Carolina, resident Philip Blackstock visited Los Tres Magueyes, where he ordered steak fajitas and beer.
“I was ready to eat out,” he said, noting that he frequents the restaurant.
Blackstock didn’t get delivery or takeout too much during the last few months, so he wants more of his favorite restaurants beginning to open their doors.
“I’m ready to be out more,” he said.
But most Danville restaurants don’t have large outdoor seating areas like Los Tres Magueyes, and therefore can’t seat customers during phase one. A few cities around the country have closed streets to allow for restaurants to seat more patrons outdoors. Danville City Manager Ken Larking said that Danville is looking at “creative solutions to help local businesses be successful during this time.”
“Closing streets, where possible, is under consideration by staff at this time, but nothing has been decided,” he said. “We have to be able to do it safely and at minimum inconvenience.”
Butch Dalton, a resident of the River District, went to Links Coffee Shop for breakfast and lunch on Friday, eating outside because of the beautiful weather. A regular of Links, Dalton is thrilled that the coffee shop is open and now allowing for customers to sit outside.
But he is ready for the rest of the River District to begin reopening. Many of his favorite restaurants — including Mucho Taquiero, Me’s Burgers and Brews and The Garage — are all still closed.
“We don’t want to rush things, but the River District is enjoying this wonderful resurgence and we hope that it comes back,” he said.
Several downtown retail stores that had only been offering curbside pickup also opened their doors to the public on Friday. During the past two months, Cheryl Sutherlin, owner of Main Street Art Collective, conducted weekly Facebook live events where she would sell merchandise.
“That’s how I survived,” she said, noting that she actually gained a lot of new customers through that.
Starting on Friday, she is opening the store on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Many of her customers have been asking about when the store can open in person again, which is why she knew it would be worth it to open the doors.
“Definitely not to normal, but I’m expecting to have people,” she said.
Less than a block away, Vintages by the Dan began allowing customers to come in and look at the different wines and beers, instead of the pickup options that had been happening over the last few months. Sales Associate Dave Slayton said that allowing customers to come in the building helps them decide what they want.
“A lot of people don’t know precisely what they want.... so they do like to come in and look,” he said.
Slayton said that business had been “really sporadic” over the past few months, but he hopes that it will pick back up now that the doors are open. The company had reduced its supply of beer and quit carrying gourmet food, but that will likely change.
“Over the next few weeks we’ll he bringing out inventory back up,” Slayton said.
Williamson said the last few months of having his business closed have been tough, but he knew that things would eventually begin reopening.
“I knew eventually that we as an American people would find a way to get back to work. That’s what we do: we find ways to overcome,” he said.