By Brandon Martin
Those cruising on Main Street in Martinsville may do a doubletake at the new lime green umbrellas that cover three picnic tables in front of the former Leed’s Music Center.
The tables are part of the latest efforts by Tammy Pearson, owner of local eatery Shindig (an Uptown Bistro + Catering), to host guests following the start of Phase One for Virginia’s economic reopening.
Under the Phase One guidelines, restaurants that have an outdoor seating permit can fill that area at 50 percent capacity. On May 13, Virginia ABC announced that it will be accelerating the process for licensees to receive approval for temporary outside dining areas.
“We are trying to make sure we are reacting to the marketplace as quickly as we can,” Pearson said. “The city was kind enough to give us permission along with the building owner here. We can serve a full menu. A full drink menu as well.”
It’s required by law that restaurants must have a separate license to serve alcohol outdoors. Restaurants looking to take advantage of the expedited services must have written approval for temporary outside dining from their local government and must provide a diagram of the outdoor dining area to the Virginia ABC.
“When we originally asked, the ABC board said they were not expanding any ABC areas,” said Martinsville City Council Member Danny Turner, who was the first to try a meal on Shindig’s new outdoor tables. “At the time, there really wasn’t any benefit in it. Most people didn’t need ABC provisions to sell out in their parking lot but these are special times.”
Pearson said that Turner and State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, were instrumental in the bistro quickly obtaining their ABC permits to be able to serve their outdoor guests.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are,” Pearson said. “And it’s not just because of the sales and revenue and things like that. I think one of the reasons a lot of our employees are in the restaurant industry is because they love the interaction between their customers. We have really, really missed that. We treat (customers) like guests or like family,”
She added that Shindig will continue to provide delivery and curbside pick-up services as well and “hopefully in Phase Two, we will be able to open up the area for dining.”
There are a few other guidelines that businesses must follow in order to qualify for a permit. The outdoor dining must be within 100 feet of the restaurant in question, and adequate tables and chairs must be provided. Using the area for the selling and consumption of alcohol is only allowed between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. unless further limited by authorization from a local government. Areas used after sunset must be well lit and lighting should be sufficient for eating outdoors and determining a customer’s age and sobriety.