Dining in again

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 15, 2020

The dining areas in most restaurants in Valley and Lanett are open now for the first time in close to two months. Others remain closed for dining but remain open for take-out orders, something they have all been doing for weeks. Business has been slow for the first couple of days, but owners are confident traffic will pick up.  They continue to sanitize well and have social distancing inbetween the seating arrangements. All employees are wearing masks and gloves.

“We reopened our dining areas on Monday evening,” San Marcos owner Adan Gonzalez told The Valley Times-News. “It’s been slow for the first few days, but I think it will pick up. It’s not bad given the circumstances, and our take-out service has kept us going for several weeks.”

Anyone paying a visit to San Marcos will see lots of changes. There’s a large sheet of plexiglass at the main counter, and a couple of bottles of hand sanitizer sit ready for customers to use. Employees wear masks and gloves, and customers are welcomed to wear them as well, but it’s not required. People are asked to stay six feet apart, and there’s a limit of six people per large table.

Email newsletter signup

Signs on the main entrance ask arriving customers to be patient with the safety rules that are in place due to the coronavirus.

“Groups are limited to six people,” they read. “If we are at full capacity, please leave your phone number at the front. We will call you when we are ready to accommodate you and your party.”

San Marcos has been open in the Valley since 1986. The Mexican restaurant was located in the Valley Plaza Shopping Center in Lanett until 1998 when it relocated into a former Western Sizzlin’ building on Highway 29 in Valley in 1998.

Located at Valley Marketplace, Zen House reopened its dining area on Tuesday. It’s back to its normal hours of 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT Tuesday through Sunday. It’s closed on Mondays.

According to owner Kevin Chen, people are asked to stay 6 feet apart, and there’s a limit of two people per table.

“We use lots of bleach and soap to keep everything clean,” he said. “There’s lots of hand sanitizer here for everyone to use.”

Milano’s, located on Fob James Drive, reopened its dining area at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

“We are making sure everything is safe,” reads a sign on the door. “We are sanitizing at all times. Please help us, our guests and our employees by maintaining social distancing of six feet.”

El Jimador has been at Valley Plaza in Lanett for the past eight years. After several weeks of take-out service, the restaurant is back to dine-in service.

“We were doing to-go orders for five weeks,” said owner Carlos Valencia. “We reopened our dine-in area on Monday. It’s been slow for the past couple of days, but we are hoping for business to pick up. We did pretty well with our take-out. It kept us going. We want everyone to know we are following the CDC guidelines. We are constantly cleaning our countertops and our tables. We are using a lot of Clorox.”

El Jimador is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

China Moon, also located at Valley Plaza, is remaining take-out only for now.

“We were closed for one month and opened for call-in orders on May 1,” said owner Jan Zeng. “I still think it’s too early to open for dining in, but we hope to do that later on.”

Zeng said that many restaurants are struggling with higher food prices.

“Everyone misses Chinese food, and we want to get it to them,” she said.

Zeng and her husband Bilin He are originally from China and both have family there. Their two children, Simon and Mary Ann, are honor graduates of Springwood School and both are pursuing medical careers. Mary Ann is an ICU nurse at UAB Hospital in Birmingham. Her grandmother, who lives in Fujian, China, recently sent a generous gift of medical masks, surgical gowns and gloves to UAB Hospital in honor of Mary Ann.

“I talk to my mom on the phone every day,” Zeng said. “She worries about us and the coronavirus. It started first in China but was controlled well by the government. It didn’t get from Wuhan (where it started) to Fujian.”

Unfortunately for anyone in the U.S., it’s much more widespread in this country.