Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility'Oh God that's good.' After weeks away, people flock to re-opening businesses in NOVA | WJLA
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'Oh God that's good.' After weeks away, people flock to re-opening businesses in NOVA

ABC7/Heather Graf
ABC7/Heather Graf
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On Friday, Northern Virginia took a big step forward in its coronavirus recovery plan, with Phase One of reopening now underway. That means salons and barber shops can reopen by appointment, and non-essential retail can open at 50 percent capacity. Gyms will be allowed to hold outdoor fitness classes. Places of worship can open at 50 percent capacity.

Restaurants are also allowed to begin serving customers, but with outdoor dining only and at 50 percent capacity.

"We're excited because at least it's the beginning," said John Finlay, who owns Crystal City Sports Pub on in Arlington. "You can start seeing a glimmer of light a little bit. That's what we can have hope for. We've been hurting."

After 26 years in business on 23rd Street South, Finlay says nothing compares to what the business has been through over the last two months. Since the middle of March, coronavirus restrictions have limited restaurants to take-out orders only.

Finlay estimates business at his restaurant is down by about 85 percent.

So with outdoor seating now permitted as part of Phase One, Finlay and his staff worked to turn the restaurant's parking lot into a patio. Outdoor tables are all set up six feet apart.

"We're lucky and blessed to have a parking lot that's big enough to accommodate that type of spacing and still have the social distancing and be able to abide by all the rules and regulations we have to go by," he said. "When people are dining out, it's going to be a little bit of a different experience. We ask that people be patient with it. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the weather. Enjoy the fact that we are going in Phase One. This is the beginning."

Crystal City Sports Pub is not the only restaurant getting creative in an effort to expand outdoor seating.

On Friday, Arlington County said more than 30 businesses had applied for a special permit that allows parking lots and sidewalks to be turned into temporary outdoor seating areas. That number will likely climb over the next few days. Several other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia are taking a similar approach, to try to help restaurants that don't have patios.

RELATED: Phase 1: Outdoor dining to expand to sidewalks, parking lots in parts of Northern Virginia

Finlay said his first customer showed up for breakfast at about 9 a.m. By lunchtime, ABC7 met customers like Terry Campo, sitting at one of the outdoor tables and enjoying a cold beer.

"Oh God that's good," Campo said as he took his first sip. "I'm glad they're finally able to be open. Obviously I'm also sick and tired of being stranded at home. Feels like I've been under house arrest for a crime I didn't commit."

Servers and staff at Crystal City Sports Pub told ABC7 they're relieved to be back to work.

"It's good to get back and be back on my feet," said Cymone Bassett, who has worked as a server at Crystal City Sports Pub for about a year. "It's definitely going to help, because money is good."

Bassett and her coworkers will have to work a bit harder to make that money, since the restaurant's new outdoor setup actually sits across the street from the restaurant.

"We have to cross the street to bring the food and drinks from inside. So far so good, I haven't dropped anything, I haven't fallen in the road, so I can't complain," she said, laughing as she spoke. "You just have to stick your head out, make sure you don't get hit."

The restaurant's new outdoor seating area also includes tents to help protect customers in the event of rain or inclement weather.

You can find the Commonwealth's full list of guidelines for Phase One of the 'Forward Virginia' plan by clicking here.

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Friday also marked the start of Virginia's new mask mandate that requires face coverings inside buildings. You can find a list of frequently asked questions about that policy by clicking here.

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