Customers crowd Richmond restaurant Saturday as restrictions ease, staff works to get used to ‘the new norm’


RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) – Fully vaccinated people can go without a face mask in most settings and restaurants can stay open serving alcohol past midnight starting Saturday, May 15 in Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam sided with the CDC’s guidance this week, saying he’d lift all capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements earlier than expected on May 28.

It was crowded inside Wood & Iron in Scott’s Addition on Saturday.

The manager told 8News that they’re following Gov. Northam and the CDC in allowing their customers and staff to go without a mask if they’re fully vaccinated.

Wood & Iron general manager Chris Ryan said Saturday night they’ll be staying open until 2 a.m., now selling alcohol after midnight. It’s part of another restriction Gov. Northam eased starting Saturday.

Virginia businesses can choose whether or not to require face coverings, but Ryan said he’s followed the governor and CDC, adapting with each new order including this one.

“We had expected June 15 to be the original date when we could open back up, you know, it got moved up, which is great, we’re really excited. But, you know, we’ve got to get the gears turning really quickly,” Ryan explained. “We need to wake up a little earlier in the morning, get ready, nose to the grindstone to make sure we give the best experience to our customers. I don’t think there is any preparing. That’s one thing I think that’s taught a lot of restaurants in the last year and a half.”

Ryan said vaccinated staff and customers are excited to not have to wear a mask and for the restaurant to be open later, but at the same time, he says they’ll have to get used to the new norm. Some staff members and customers are still wearing masks out of habit.

“It’s weird, you know? The regulars come in and they look around and they’re like, oh my god, I can see your face! And stuff like that. You know, everybody is super excited but it’s hard with that to describe how weird it feels,” Ryan said. “We’ve been open every day, I’ve been working every day from the beginning of the pandemic and the masks became a norm.”

Virginia will still require fully vaccinated people to wear masks on public transportation, at healthcare and correctional facilities, and in homeless shelters.

People who are not vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask in public but will be strongly encouraged to do so still, according to a release from the governor’s office.

Also starting Saturday the capacity for social gatherings is expanded from 50 to 100 people for indoor gatherings and from 100 to 250 people for outdoor settings.

For outdoor sporting events, venues can have up to 1,000 people or be at 50% capacity, whichever is less, starting on May 15. That’s double the current limit of 500. Indoor sports can have 250 spectators, up from 100, or 50% capacity, whichever is less.

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