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Elizabethton city government looks for way to help downtown restaurants during COVID-19 pandemic

John Thompson • Mar 19, 2020 at 8:15 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The city of Elizabethton and the Elizabethton Main Street program have taken steps to help downtown restaurants implement drive-thru service during this time when people are taking extra precautions because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Restaurant owners are also initiating or expanding food delivery service to its customers and taking many other measures to keep their customers coming in for a meal

Courtney Washburn, program director for the Elizabethton Main Street organization, said the city has announced a new program to “assist downtown restaurants in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The program will allow restaurants to obtain traffic cones from the city and reserve on-street parking spaces for curb-side pickup.

The program was announced Thursday morning and Washburn said a little later in the day she was in the process of talking with the downtown restaurant owners and explaining the program. As a result, the cones had not been placed yet, but she expected they would be soon.

“The city hopes this is a way to help keep the downtown restaurants in business and help those businesses retain employees during this challenging time,” Washburn said. Traffic cones will be delivered to food-service businesses within the downtown area that have on-street parking along with a set of guidelines for how to utilize the cones to reserve on-street parking for their business. The city also asked visitors to downtown to respect the reserved drive-thru lanes created by the cones.

John Malone, co-owner of Jiggy Ray’s Pizzeria, said he was impressed the city would help small downtown restaurants like his by creating drive-thru lanes. He said the cooperative spirit of his fellow restaurant owners in downtown has also been very helpful in overcoming obstacles and challenges.

All restaurants in the downtown district have reported a downturn in business and have responded by doing things to assure diners that they are working extra hard to keep their dining rooms as clean and sanitary as possible. Some like Dan Britt of Big Dan’s BBQ have emphasized social distancing by taking out some tables to maximize the distance between diners. He is also keeping an eye on commonly handled surfaces, such as door handles and checkout areas and giving them frequent cleanings.

But some patrons are still reluctant to come inside the restaurants at the current time. To accommodate them, many restaurants are offering drive-thru lanes, carry outs and also home delivery.

The city”s guidelines are only temporary, and were created to help the restaurants during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidelines are in place for restaurants in the B3 (central) business district.

Some businesses already have a home delivery service. Jiggy Ray’s has three delivery services for its customers: Double Time Delivery, Doordash and Bite Squad. Others are exploring the option of delivery. Simply Elegant Bakery has returned to its roots as a caterer and is delivering boxed dinners inside Carter County.

Dino’s is another restaurant that is doing its own delivery. “I am the one who is making the deliveries,” said owner John Williams. He will make deliveries inside Elizabethton’s city limits.

Another unique idea is being explored at Southern Restaurant. That plan is to sell complete dinners for a whole family. The orders would be called in and then picked up and would include such essentials as whole gallons of milk and other family meal essentials.

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