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After years of social distancing, restaurants are ready for Memorial Day crowds without COVID-19 restrictions

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) – As tourists and locals prepare to relax and enjoy Memorial Day weekend, restaurants in the area are preparing for crowds like no other.

Every year, tourists flock to Cape Fear for the water, the beaches, and the amazing food.

“In the north we do it, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Boston, the calamari is the best,” said one Oceanic visitor. “These calamari here in this restaurant is the closest thing to New England calamari I have ever eaten in my life. Fantastic.”

This is one of the busiest times of year for local restaurants, especially those on the water.

“It’s the unofficial start of summer,” said Mark Zecher, CEO of Oceanic. “Just like the big kickoff. Lots of people come to town. We’re going to be very, very busy all weekend.

And as the first Memorial Day without any form of coronavirus restrictions in place, managers like Ben Reingold are preparing staff for non-stop shifts.

“We should expect to be even busier than we have been,” he explained. “Throughout the year, this year we have seen a steady increase in activity. I would expect it to be good.

Reingold runs Elijah’s, a riverside restaurant in the heart of downtown Wilmington. The establishment is no stranger to holiday crowds.

“If it wasn’t raining today, I think we could have had a long queue at the door,” he said, looking outside. “Especially since we are considering tomorrow, no school, no work. So I think tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. we will open to lineups at the front and lineups at the river.

Although the crowds have returned, staff have not fully recovered. Oceanic is always looking for cooks and cleaners. By this time last year, Reingold says he had half the staff and twice as many customers. Although they are still hiring, he says his staff are prepared and ready for anything.

“Friday, Saturday, Sunday is game time here. So I just tell them to rest now, take care of yourself, drink water, and yes, that’s what we’re here for. This is what we do.”

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement