Sunday brunch spots react to new mask guidance

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — At the end of July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its health recommendations for individuals who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to state that masks should be worn in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Since then, several businesses have come out with their own masking recommendations and requirements.

Wood & Iron Scott’s Addition and River City Diner in Midlothian are two popular Sunday brunch spots in the greater Richmond area. But unlike the businesses on this list, these local business owners are keeping their mask requirements the same until the government mandates otherwise.

After the CDC released its updated health guidance, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said that masks will be recommended in all indoor public settings regardless of vaccination. However, the governor also said that this is not a requirement.

“The same thing we’ve been doing for a long time is following the guidelines, following the guidelines that are handed down to us from the governor or the City,” Wood & Iron Scott’s Addition General Manager Chris Ryan said. “If it comes out, the governor says, ‘This is the action that needs to take place,’ by all means, we’re going to do it.”

Although Wood & Iron does not currently have a mask mandate in place, the Scott’s Addition location opened during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, operating with social distancing and face-covering requirements, as well as no bar service.

“Right now, you’re expecting to see a normal restaurant. You see some people wearing masks, some of the staff wears masks,” Ryan said. “It’s just, they’re more comfortable that way.”

Just inside the front entrance of Wood & Iron Scott’s Addition is a stand with hand sanitizer and masks for those customers who choose to use them. But after nearly two years of health-related mandates, Ryan said that the restaurant’s goal is to keep people safe, while also providing a space for them to enjoy themselves.

“We’re here to make sure you have a good time and just try to step away a little bit from whatever reality’s throwing at you at the time,” he said. “We’ll continue to adapt as we have.”

In Chesterfield County, River City Diner has been serving up breakfast, burgers and classic American entrees for more than 20 years. Manager Terri Johnson has worked there for roughly a decade, but said that the adjustments the restaurant industry had to make because of COVID-19 concerns were challenging.

“It was very difficult to adjust and, obviously, when you have to kind of shut everything down and lay people off and so forth, that was very stressful, and we just had to pivot over to takeout only,” Johnson said.

When Virginia’s mask mandate was lifted, Johnson said that most of the River City Diner staff had already been vaccinated. After taking some time to decide how to move forward safely, Johnson said that the diner put up a sign to let customers know that masks would be optional for vaccinated individuals.

Just over two months later, the CDC handed down its most recent recommendations.

“I hope that we don’t fall back into another complete shutdown,” Johnson said. “We have definitely been all communicating about it, management and stuff like that, and many of us have started wearing a mask.”

Although River City Diner is not currently requiring masks for customers, Johnson said that strict cleaning measures remain in place.

“We still continue with deep cleaning on a daily basis, hourly, you know, sanitizing,” she said. “I have noticed, in the past couple weeks, more and more people wearing masks again. So I have already seen a shift to that. So I would predict that that would continue.”

However, both Johnson and Ryan said that until the governor or local government details new health and safety mandates, masks are likely to remain optional for vaccinated individuals in their respective establishments.

“If our governor starts making it mandatory again, then it won’t be an option anymore for people,” Johnson said. “It just will be what it is, just like it was initially.”

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