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Retail, restaurants, salons, gyms reopen amid coronavirus outbreak

Ten or more women stood in line outside Marshalls in Brannon Crossing just before 10 a.m. waiting for the doors to open. Most were social distancing. Only a couple wore masks.

The department store was allowing only 111 customers in at a time. Customers were greeted by employees who were masked and signs that assured them shopping carts had been cleaned and disinfected. One customer smiled when a clerk answered that she didn’t have to have her temperature taken.

Allison Haas, one of the customers, laughed when asked whether she was apprehensive about being in the store with so many strangers when hundreds of new coronavirus cases a week were being reported, along with daily reports of deaths resulting from the contagion.

“No,” she said. “It feels good to go shopping.”

A few doors down, Rene Nunez sat outside Great Clips with other customers waiting to be allowed inside so he could get his first haircut since early March because the salon was only allowing a few inside at a time.

“I’m excited! I won’t have to wear a cap,” he said.

Although he was pleased to see businesses reopening, Nunez said the reduction in numbers of infections showed the governor and public health officials were taking the right approach.

Jim Davis, who was sitting outside European Delights Gourmet Bakery having his breakfast, as he does every morning with his wife, also thought so.

“I think he’s doing it at just about the right time,” Davis said, referring to Gov. Andy Beshear reopening the economy. “I think people are still trying to be safe.”

Inside the bakery, there were fewer tables and couches than before because of the new social distancing restrictions, but employees who were interacting with customers weren’t wearing masks, and few of the customers were.

Elena Maydanovrich, owner of the bakery, said she reopened the day after she was allowed by the state. During the time dining rooms were closed by the state, the restaurant had been doing mostly curbside delivery of food. More customers were starting to come back, she said.

“It’s slower than normal, but it’s not so slow that we’re struggling,” she said. “I can see more people are out now. … Not as many people dine in, but takeout is pretty busy.”

Two of her customers, Miriam Boyko of Nicholasville and Taylor Huston of Lexington, were happy to see things return to some semblance of normal.

“I didn’t see anybody for the two months I stayed home, so it’s nice to go out and have a life again,” Huston said.

Most businesses have been allowed to reopen since late May, but at limited capacity and with strict rules and guidelines in place to try to prevent the spread of the contagion, which has infected more than 2 million Americans and claimed the lives of more than 100,000.

On May 20, retail stores reopened, and a couple of days later, restaurant dining areas reopened at one-third capacity to allow more space between parties.

On May 25, hair, nail and tanning salons could reopen, and on June 1, movie theaters and fitness centers were allowed to reopen.

Anytime Fitness in the Keene Centre reopened on the first day it could, but members have been slow to come back, but the ones who were in the gym every day before it closed are the same ones who have returned and were eager to get back into their fitness routines, said Andrew Caneris, the general manager.

“People are still easing their way back in,” he said.

Caneris said the staff has placed signs on the treadmills and other cardio equipment asking people not to use the ones right next to someone else, but rather use every other one to maintain the six-foot distance recommended to keep people from inhaling the airborne virus. It’s recommended that customers wear masks, but it’s hard to work out while wearing one, he said, and it isn’t required of them.

“We’re cleaning every hour,” Caneris said, and asking customers to be considerate and wipe down their exercise equipment right after using it, but most of them always did that as a common courtesy.

Caneris said it was tough when the gyms were closed, but Anytime Fitness was able to benefit from the payroll protection program, and that helped a great deal.

“We furloughed people during that time, but they’re all back now,” he said of his employees.

At Firehouse Subs, in the same plaza, it was busy for lunch one day last week. Employees all wore gloves and masks, and there were designated places for customers to stand for social distancing.

Manager Andrea Lawson said business has been strong.

“We’re actually busier,” than before the shutdown, she said. “We laid people off, but we’ve had to rehire them … so it’s been nice.”

Nicholasville City Commissioner Alex Carter, who started a task force to help business owners and managers with their questions about the rules and with issues such as finding suppliers of personal protective equipment, said he thinks that effort has helped businesses with the transition.

He said he believes some business owners still don’t know what all the rules are because “the governor’s recommendations were kind of a moving target for a long time.”

Carter said the city can’t enforce the regulations, but the Jessamine County Health Department can and does respond to complaints.

Business owners need to be mindful, he said, that if their customers feel safe, they are going to want to return.

“It’s still not up to full speed, but we’re getting back to normal — or that new state of normal,” Carter said. “It’s going to be a little bit different for the next few months.”

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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