Evesham businesses and restaurants begin to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions ease
EVESHAM — Shannon Brancaccio and Paul Lukianovich Jr. were getting ready to sit at a table outside of La Scala’s Fire in the Promenade at Sagemore.
“You can’t sit until everything’s sanitized,” the restaurant’s manager Chris Borrelle told the couple, before heading over to wipe down everything from the tabletop to the seat cushions.
As New Jersey entered phase two of its reopening plan Monday, Evesham restaurants and retail businesses, as well as their patrons, got their first taste of what life and business will look like for a while in post-pandemic New Jersey.
Phase two allows for outdoor dining, as well as limited in-person retail shopping — both of which are still subjected to social-distancing measures.
For Brancaccio and Lukianovich, both self-described foodies, it’s a welcome step towards normalcy.
“It’s nice to be out and have a date night, or date day, and not be stuck in the house with our children,” Brancaccio said.
“It’s nice to finally sit down and enjoy a meal somewhere,” Lukianovich said.
Borrelle said the restaurant’s staff began preparing to reopen for outdoor dining last Thursday, undergoing an extensive sanitation process. On Monday, their first customer was outside and waiting for them to open at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s been really nice,” Borrelle said around lunchtime with a nearly full patio.
The restaurant added more tables than it usually has outside, something both the management at the shopping center approved as well as Evesham Township, where officials last week passed a resolution to make it easier for restaurants to have outdoor seating.
“What we’re seeing here is exactly what I was hoping to see,” Evesham Mayor Jaclyn Veasy said outside of the restaurant.
The mayor, along Councilwoman Patricia Hansen, U.S. Rep. Andy Kim and members of the township’s Economic Advisory Council, visited several businesses that reopened Monday.
“I was hoping to see people out … people but not being afraid to go out. That was a big concern — consumer confidence has been a big question. It’s been nice,” Veasy said.
The Promenade at Sagemore, which features both retail and restaurants off Route 73, had more life than it has over the last three months. The parking lot, while not full, was busy, and shoppers entered and exited the stores.
And while retail businesses were glad to be reopening, some owners still had some real concerns.
Valerie Sanders, owner of the Haute Bungalow on Main Street, was lucky to have received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration.
The loans, she said, allowed her to reopen Monday, albeit slowly.
“My business changed overnight,” said Sanders, adding that she will only open the store from Wednesday through Friday.
Sanders said her clothing boutique was left with all old inventory from the spring season. She said that what she usually sells in the summer, dresses and gowns for graduations, are no longer needed. Now, its sweatpants and sweatshirts.
“I’m going to ease into it,” Sanders said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go.”
Her biggest concern, however, is what happens if she’s forced to close her store again due to another outbreak. An online business isn’t enough to keep her afloat, and she wonders if the federal government will have a similar program like the Paycheck Protection Program again.
“I can’t imagine like if this were to happen again in October, November, December,” Sanders said.
She asked Kim that on Monday.
“We’re going to try to avoid at all costs having to do the full shutdown again,” said Kim, D-3 of Moorestown.
The congressman is on the Bipartisan Select Committee to Oversee Coronavirus Response, and said he is working to make sure there are enough preventive measures in place that will essentially eliminate the need for another wide-scale shutdown.
“I think a lot of people are worried about a possible second wave. This is something that I’m working on specifically in the (committee), so we’re going to do everything we can — try to prevent that from happening,” Kim said later in an interview, acknowledging the anxiety the entire population has over the uncertainty of the future.
The congressman said he supports another stimulus package down the road if business were forced to close again.
“I think that we’re going to need to keep helping out businesses, especially small businesses. And I’m hoping that we can do this in the right way … to be able to just make sure they have every chance to be able to reopen,” Kim said.
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