North Carolina’s Phase 3 is now in effect, easing some coronavirus restrictions. Combined with the new season, local businesses hope for a boost to the economy.
With the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina and fall leaf season getting underway, many mountain businesses are banking on more business coming in.
“They come from everywhere, and, yes, they’re so fun to visit with,” said Kelli Todtenhagen, who runs The Station on Main — a shop full of nostalgic memorabilia — with her husband.
They said the signs are pointing to more dollars from more visitors coming to see the fall colors.
“I definitely can tell, especially as of last week,” she said. “They’re celebrating as they’re out and about, and so they’re enjoying the restaurants and the shopping.”
Under Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 3, movie theaters like Waynesville’s Smoky Mountain Cinema, can allow patrons inside for the first time since March.
“We’re going to open on October the 9th. We’re going to open at 30% capacity, which is better than none,” Greg Israel said.
Still, he said, that won’t help recoup some of his losses.
“No, not right now. Summer is kind of when we make all of our money,” Israel said.
To get by, Israel ran outdoor drive-in movies. He’ll continue those Friday and Saturday nights through Halloween, along with the indoor flicks starting next Friday. He said that’s good timing with fall visitors.
“I think people are ready to come back in the theater,” Israel said.
Phase 3 allows bars to open with 30% outdoor capacity. David Young, who runs Mad Anthony’s Taphouse and Restaurant, said that won’t help.
“In October in the mountains, how much outdoor stuff are we going to be doing,” he said.
Young said he’s been getting by with loans.
“But that money has dried up, and it’s at the point where the bar has to become self-sufficient again,” he said.
Visitors are coming.
“We love the area and it’s fall, and we wanted to see the leaves,” said Diane Wheeler, visiting with her husband from the Raleigh area.
The Visitors Center said bookings are filling up.
“We don’t have many openings, and we are consistently getting calls from people wanting accommodations, the center’s Ashley Rice said.
Businesses are hoping for lights, camera, action with the economy.
“We’re ready to go,” Israel said.
Phase 3 will remain in place until 5 p.m. Oct. 23.
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