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Local restaurants being affected by decline in business

Restaurants in Poplarville were advised to stop offering dine-in service by 3 p.m. Friday to slow the spread of COVID-19, while other locally owned restaurants are closing down dining rooms or implementing delivery options after a decrease in customers.

Business at Coco’s in Carriere was great a week before, but began to decline Friday, March 13, and has been severely affected, said Chris Speir, who owns Coco’s with his wife.

The restaurant’s lobby is normally full during lunch, but was down to one or two tables. With a near empty lobby and older wait staff the owners want to protect them from COVID-19. In response, the restaurant’s lobby is now closed and staff are only offering drive thru service only. In the seven years the restaurant has been open, this is the slowest Speir has seen business.

“With restaurants it’s all based on customers, and if you don’t have the customers coming in, you can’t have your employees coming in,” said Speir.

North 11 Diner in Picayune will shut down entirely for two weeks starting March 23 due to the decline in business. The restaurant has only stayed open this long to help employees, said owner Mike Muhoderac.

Don’s Seafood still has an open dining room, but dine-in purchases have dropped to 2 percent of what they were previously and takeout has dropped to 20 percent, said Christine Penton, who owns the restaurant with her husband. Two of the four person staff are on standby, said Penton and the restaurant has cut back some of its hours.

The restaurant owners will not discuss closing the doors until the number of customers drops to zero, said Penton.

“We’re just a mom and pop. We’re not corporate. The employees that we have rely on business and without the customers, we can’t survive,” said Penton.

Southern Char expects to shut down its dining room floor next week, said manager Jacob Foulon. The restaurant has been seating people far away from one another, with a table in each of the four corners and one in the center of the dining room, and limiting parties to a maximum of six people in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The restaurant has always offered take out orders, but began using a delivery service Friday, said Foulon.

Chick N Stick Soulfood already had delivery options available, but has not seen a surge in delivery purchases, said owner Charles Bates. Although business has declined, the staff are still working their regular shifts.

“It’s definitely been a trial, but this too will pass,” said Bates. “It’s a test for everybody, not just businesses, but families, kids, schools.”

The restaurant may transition to only pickup or delivery options in a few weeks, depending on how business goes.

“All we can do is pray for better days,” said Bates.

Poplarville’s Mayor Rossie Creel signed an executive order Friday that advised restaurants in the city to no longer offer dine-in options and switch to delivery, takeout, drive-thru or curb side service.

The executive order also requires establishments, including gyms, performance venues, entertainment venues, recreational facilities, fitness centers or studios, non-food retail stores, barber shops and salons, to allow no more than five customers in the business at any given time and to practice social distancing protocols. Social distancing means increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.

The order does not apply to grocery stores, supermarkets, drug stores, pharmacies, multi-purpose stores that sell groceries, healthcare or cleaning products, convenience, hardware or garden supply stores, veterinary clinics, banks, auto service facilities, gas stations, law offices or accountants, or private cafeterias like those in a nursing home.