After reopening, some Delaware beach restaurants
are reclosing due to coronavirus surge
Delaware News Journal
Some Delaware beach restaurants are limiting and even closing their operations due to an outbreak of new coronavirus cases in the resort area.
Tourists have been flooding the beach towns of Rehoboth and Dewey, and even more crowds are expected as the busy Fourth of July weekend gets underway.
And as more people get tested – teens who celebrated senior week, restaurant and bar workers, other beachgoers – more cases are being found.
But if places like the Starboard in Dewey hadn’t closed for a few days to do a full suite of testing among employees, they might not have known that employees had the coronavirus.
Surge in coronavirus:Delaware beach bars close as concerns mount over COVID-19 among seasonal workers
In the case of the Starboard, everyone who tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend was also asymptomatic, owner Steve Montgomery said.
“It worked for the right reasons,” Montgomery said. “Those people are now out for 14 days.”
But it’s not just Montgomery and the Starboard, which plans to reopen Tuesday, dealing with closures during one of the most straining economic seasons they’ve seen.
On Monday afternoon, Rehoboth Beach officials announced that three lifeguards had also tested positive.
“We believe at this time there was very little contact with the public,” Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks said in a press release. “All lifeguards were notified of the exposure and will be tested within the next 24 hours.”
Several bars and restaurants have closed in recent days, some over coronavirus concerns, some for other reasons.
At Nalu in Dewey Beach, technical issues with a computer system were the main reason for closing on Saturday, said owner Regan Derrickson.
But with the situation at the beaches, he said he opted to stay closed for a few days to “regroup” ahead of the holiday weekend and allow time for staffers to get tested for COVID-19.
As of Monday morning, all the tests that had been returned for his staff members were negative, he said. Nalu in Rehoboth Beach remains open, while the Dewey location will reopen Thursday morning.
“People need to know that Dewey is taking this very seriously,” Derrickson said. “We don’t want to get shut down again or go in reverse. We want this to go away.”
That won’t happen just because of government mandates, he said. People have to do their part.
“I think it’s quite commendable where the businesses came [through to do this], no agency had to intervene,” he said. “We took it upon ourselves.”
Derrickson said he’ll continue to follow the state’s reopening guidance and recommendations from public health officials.
Montgomery said testing will continue at the Starboard throughout the summer as a precaution for staff and customers.
“That’s really the only way you can keep up with it,” Montgomery said.
Closures, reduced hours
On Saturday in a Facebook post, the Blue Hen Restaurant at 33 Wilmington Ave. in Rehoboth Beach said it would be closing for several days after two employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The post read that the entire staff also would be tested.
“Once we have those results we will reopen with team members who have tested negative. We hope to be back in business soon.”
The Blue Hen had reopened for business only on Wednesday.
Egg at 510 Rehoboth Ave. in Rehoboth also announced on Saturday that it would close for a short while “to keep our staff and guests as safe as possible.” Owners said they decided to close temporarily for a few days to “professionally clean and make sure that all of our employees can find time to get tested.”
Grotto Pizza in Dewey halted dine-in services inside the restaurant and at the bar over the weekend, but continued takeout and patio dining. It planned to reopen all services on Monday.
Woody’s in Dewey Beach, which has temporarily closed, gave away almost 350 crab cakes on Sunday afternoon.
It was first-come, first-served for the free food. The restaurant on Del. 1 had expected a busy Saturday night and prepared hundreds of its signature crab cakes for takeout only.
But on Saturday, Woody’s owner Jimmy O’Conor posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page that the restaurant planned to discontinue its carryout and temporarily close “due to increased anxieties within our beach community regarding COVID.”
“This allows for the actions needed to be taken to prevent the spread of this virus and promote the health and safety of our families, coworkers, customers, and fellow industry members.”
HammerHeads also voluntarily shut down its locations in Dewey Beach and Rehoboth on Thursday after learning about an outbreak in the Delaware Beach area.
According to a Facebook post, some employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“The good news is these individuals are reporting mild symptoms and are quarantined at home,” read the post.
Kick n’ Chicken, which has operations off Savannah Road in Lewes and another in Milford, said it has stopped dine-in services as of Friday until further notice.
“The influx of people to our area as well as a percentage of local people who want to test boundaries in regard to public safety is the problem,” read a Facebook post.
“No service will be permitted inside the restaurants without a mask. If you do not have one or medically can’t wear one then please call in your order and we will bring your food to your car.”
Frank & Louie’s Italian Specialties, a deli on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth, said it would continue to require customers to call ahead for orders, pay by phone and pick up food at the door. It has not operated as a walk-in business since March.
Nicola Pizza announced Monday that it would keep both locations in Rehoboth Beach open.
“We know there is a lot of uncertainty as the influx of people to our area recently has caused a spike in cases, especially within our restaurant community,” read a Facebook post.
“We have encouraged any and all staff members who would like to get tested to do so today or tomorrow. We will continue to be diligent with our sanitizing of tables and chairs in between guests and with enforcing the mask rule as it is mandated.”
DiFebo’s Restaurant, also in Rehoboth, posted on Facebook that it would be closed Sunday through Wednesday, allowing staff to voluntarily get tested and providing a chance to professionally sanitize the building.
“We will leave no stone unturned and we will continue to take ANY and ALL steps necessary to assure everyone remains safe and healthy,” DiFebo’s post read. It plans to reopen before the holiday weekend.
The Pines, a restaurant on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth, said it will stay at 30% capacity and tables will remain at 8 feet apart inside and out. Masks are required for entry and until customers are seated. The restaurant will close at 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, with reduced hours this weekend.
Arena’s location at 149 Rehoboth Ave. also announced Monday that it is going back to takeout only “for the near future.”
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Rehoboth said Monday it made the decision to temporarily move back to outdoor dining exclusively at the site off Del. 1 because of growing coronavirus concerns.
Nectar Café & Juice Bar in Lewes on Monday said due to the recent spike of COVID-19, it decided to go back to carryout only until further notice. Hours at the café are now 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.
Owners of Grain on the Rocks, a new restaurant at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal, said the site would close Monday so all employees could get tested for the coronavirus. The restaurant planned to reopen Tuesday.
The Delaware Restaurant Association helped organize a free, open-to-public walk-up COVID-19 testing on Monday at the Starboard from 1 to 6 p.m. By Monday afternoon, a crowd lined up for testing ran down the block.
For other Delaware COVID-19 testing sites, visit coronavirus.delaware.gov/testing/.