Ghost town: Shepherdstown restaurants close, as governor orders West Virginians to ‘stay at home’
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Toilet paper rolls disappearing from the shelves. Paper product aisles swept clean. The extreme reactions to the arrival of COVID-19 in West Virginia last week were not unexpected, as they had already been taking place in the 49 other United States, who had all preceded West Virginia in having a confirmed case of the virus.
The day before West Virginia’s first two confirmed COVID-19 cases were revealed, on March 16, Governor Jim Justice announced that West Virginia was in a State of Emergency.
“We are very high risk,” Justice said. “We’ve got to be concerned.”
This announcement, along with that of Shepherdstown’s own James and Carolyn Vigil’s being diagnosed with the disease the next day, led many local restaurants to close their dining rooms and even question whether or not they should sell takeout food to customers.
Originally, a number of Shepherdstown restaurants had talked with the town and agreed to participate in selling curbside takeout food, including: The Press Room, domestic, Betty’s Restaurant, Kome Thai & Sushi Bistro, China Kitchen, The Green Pineapple, The Devonshire Arms Cafe & Pub, Shepherdstown Sweet Shop Bakery, Hecho en Mexico, Town Run Tap House & Community Pub, Bistro 112 and Blue Moon Cafe. Parking spaces designated for these special pickups were even marked off with police cones and signs, to simplify the curbside pickup process. But as the number of West Virginians with confirmed cases continued to increase, with, as of press time, three in the Eastern Panhandle and 20 in the state, more restaurants reconsidered their decision to offer this service.
Tuesday night marked the beginning of Justice’s most recent order, for “all West Virginia residents to stay at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs.” While the order specifically allowed residents to continue buying takeout food, that same day, Blue Moon Cafe announced it would be temporarily closing and no longer participating in the curbside program, following the similar announcements of Bistro 112 and The Devonshire Arms Cafe & Pub.
For The Devonshire Arms Cafe & Pub, offering the curbside takeout was the restaurant’s way of preparing to temporarily close, according to its public announcement on Monday evening.
“We want to thank all of our friends who have supported our last ditch effort to dwindle down our inventory over the past week. We are preparing to close up for the last time for the time being. We hope that we, and all of the other businesses in the area, can open up when this is over,” the announcement said.
For the Blue Moon Cafe and Bistro 112, however, choosing to no longer offer takeout seemed like a necessary decision, to allow the restaurant’s staff to follow the Stay at Home Order themselves.
“After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the Blue Moon Cafe for two weeks, beginning Wednesday, March 25th, due to the continued spread of COVID-19,” read a Tuesday announcement from the cafe. “This temporary closure is for the purpose of supporting our community to stay home during this most critical phase. Our current plan is to reopen on April 8th; however, we will continue to monitor the situation to determine if that is the best option, and will keep everyone posted on our plans if they evolve.”
Bistro 112’s owner, Deb Tucker, wrote that her restaurant was also remaining closed for the same reason.
“Bistro 112 has decided to remain closed so staff can self-isolate,” Tucker announced Sunday on Facebook.
However, the restaurants that have remained on the curbside takeout list need community support, to continue offering their services to local residents. To keep up-to-date with which restaurants are open and what their takeout menus are, visit Shepherstown Shares’ Facebook page or the respective restaurants’ social media pages.