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May 17, 2020

Eased town and ABC rules expand outdoor dining

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Molly’s owner Casey Ward talks with a customer Friday afternoon as his pub offers table service for the first time in two months.
I think what the town is doing is fantastic. I’m OK with going slow, because I want everybody to be safe and healthy.
— Todd Eisenhauer, Black Bear Bistro & Brick Oven owner
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Opal mother and daughter needed to get out of the house Friday.

The weather cooperated and Warrenton had figured out an innovative way to allow its restaurants to provide outdoor dining, within Virginia’s coronavirus guidelines.

So Vonda Fredette, 52, and Nicole Seuferer, 20, decided to mark the occasion with lunch in Old Town. They chose Black Bear Bistro & Brick Oven at 32 Main St.

“It’s nice to see people out, seeing smiles on people’s faces,” Mrs. Fredette, a federal government worker, said as they waited for their meals.

“Everyone’s happy,” added Ms. Seuferer, a sophomore seeking a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forensic science and law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

To comply with Virginia’s coronavirus restrictions, restaurants across the state closed their dining areas in March.

Paving the way for the partial reopening of businesses Friday, the Warrenton Town Council on Tuesday approved a series of measures to allow outdoor seating through the “temporarily” relaxation of zoning rules related to parking, signs and setbacks from property lines.

Specifically, they allow onsite parking areas and sidewalks in front of establishments for outdoor seating, displays, sales and “wayfinding” signs.

In place until Sept. 1, the “RollOutWarrenton” plan also requires businesses to “provide pedestrian access around the perimeter of the outdoor seating/display area and safe pedestrian accessibility within the parking areas and to the establishment.”

> Document and video at bottom of story

The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority also temporarily relaxed its regulations for outdoor beverage service.

Downtown eateries made the most of the opportunity.

At least 6 feet apart, tables and chairs lined Main Street parking spaces in front of the Black Bear Bistro, Molly’s Irish Pub, Denim & Pearls and other Main Street eateries. Denim & Pearls also had tables adjacent to the restaurant along the partially closed First Street.

Orange cones strung with colorful banners separate diners from passing cars.

Around noon Friday, Smith Midland Corp. workers delivered two donated concrete “Jersey” barriers that they placed at the corners of Main and Second streets — one in front of Molly’s, the other in front of Berkley Gallery.

The “barrier outside of Molly’s diners provides protection from vehicles turning the tight corner.

“Safety and appearance,” town Community Development Director Frank Cassidy said of the donated barriers’ purposes. “Again, the whole thing is an experiment.”

Under the order of Gov. Ralph Northam, eateries with patios beginning Friday can operate at 50 percent capacity. That, for example, means Black Bear Bistro’s rear patio can accommodate 20 diners, owner Todd Eisenhauer estimated.
“We’re trying to follow the guidelines,” Mr. Eisenhauer said. “At least it’s something.”

Virginia restaurants since March have depended on curbside pickup, delivery and drive-through business to survive.

“I think what the town is doing” to relax zoning rules to allow Warrenton eateries to provide outdoor dining “is fantastic,” Mr. Eisenhauer said. “I’m OK with going slow, because I want everybody to be safe and healthy.”

In time, more and more people will begin to eat out under the circumstances, he said.

“I think that people are going to be cautious about being around other folks,” Mr. Eisenhauer said. “But I do think it’s going to get better. You want to go to dinner” versus always “being at home or doing carryout.”

Molly’s on Friday had a couple of tables flanking its entrance and four more in parking space fronting the restaurant.

Owner Casey Ward likes the arrangement — aspects of which could become permanent ways of doing business.

“Don’t really know yet” how it might succeed, Mr. Ward said. “But I’m excited to try it.”

Warrenton residents Joe and Michelle Renfro, who took their 18-month-old son to lunch on Friday, praised the town for its efforts.

“I’m happy to see the town being accommodating and helping (restaurants) reopen,” said Mrs. Renfro, 28, who works for an email marketing firm.

“We’re just proactive to open things up,” said Mr. Renfro, 30, a Prince William County emergency services worker. “It’s better than nothing, basically.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at or 540-270-0300.

RollOutWarrenton by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Rover 530 · May 18, 2020 at 1:31 pm
The gradual roll-out is indeed a start and will help businesses trying to scrape by. However, I hope if one or more of the people who participate in the outdoor dining and get infected will tell their health care providers when and where they might have contracted the disease. This could prove to be valuable information that can be fed back to local authorities and business owners.
Tom LaHaye · May 18, 2020 at 1:15 pm
The numbers in Fauquier seem to be trending up, but that may just reflect increased testing. "Opening" society will accelerate this trend, but it's important that we, one step at a time, start moving forward again; there's a long road before us.

Stay safe folks.
Tony Bentley · May 18, 2020 at 12:40 pm
Yes, Truepat, when the Azar said no new cases since opening up the country, I thought..........What?

I certainly do not want to contract the virus or be party to giving it to someone else, especially if it can be avoided by following proper protocol.
Truepat · May 18, 2020 at 11:23 am
The numbers will tell within 2 weeks and there will be no doubt one way or another, stay vigilant
Tony Bentley · May 18, 2020 at 10:30 am
Nope, not happening. When the numbers of positive cases goes down, which they are not, then I'm willing, until then I'm good supporting our food businesses by ordering take out or delivery. It will be a great day when we can enjoy our social lives again without concern of catching a virus that can easily make us or others deathly ill or die.
Truepat · May 18, 2020 at 6:34 am
The town should be commended for it's efforts to bring businesses back.....
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