- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Annapolis art gallery owner Katherine Burke says there are too many risks and unknowns about the coronavirus, which is why she will keep her business closed even as others reopen under phase one of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan.

“When you meet people in a gallery to discuss art, it doesn’t seem to fit a scene where everyone is also wearing a mask,” said Ms. Burke, owner of the Annapolis Collection Gallery.

Mr. Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday authorized parts of their states to begin reopening, allowing for personal care business, small retailers and places of worship to open at 50% capacity.

Ms. Burke said most of her store’s traffic comes from visitors staying at hotels and patrons of nearby bars and restaurants. With those businesses still closed, she said her gallery wouldn’t see many customers if she reopened.

Unlike Ms. Burke, other businesses across the region are itching to reopen.

After Mr. Northam began revealing details of his phase one, which allows wineries to reopen, Jon Hickox, owner of the Winery at Bull Run in Fairfax County, immediately began buying supplies to ready his 200-acre business for customers.

He said he had to do a complete logistics overhaul, which involved setting up an online reservation system, standing up outdoor bathrooms, simplifying the menu and changing the property’s setup to accommodate only 200 customers. It used to see 7,000 visitors on a busy day, he said.

Mr. Hickox purchased about $10,000 worth of safety materials — at an elevated price in order to receive everything on time — such as face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, tents and Plexiglass, which he said costs about $400 a sheet, to build a barrier at the bar on site.

“It’s like we are running a hospital and winery, whereas before I just had a winery,” Mr. Hickox said.

But days before Mr. Northam’s phase one was implemented, local leaders in Northern Virginia sent a letter to the governor indicating that they would extend the stay-at-home order because of high concentrations of COVID-19 cases.

Though he wishes he had known about the two-week extension earlier, Mr. Hickox says he is still excited to provide a place “where people can be safe, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the company of each other within a healthy and respectful manner.”

“We are ready, we are more ready than any other winery given the circumstance, and it comes at an enormous cost,” he said. “And now we have to open two weeks after the rest.”

Cindi Causey, owner of Potomac Point Vineyard & Winery in Stafford, Virginia, said her business has been busy nonstop as soon as she made reservations available for customers.

“It feels like a completely different animal,” Mrs. Causey said of business during a pandemic.

She said one of her biggest challenges is communicating to customers that the experience at Potomac Point will be different than what it was before.

There are no wine tastings, and customers can purchase only by the bottle or the glass during phase one. Bistro customers are asked to put used dishes and utensils on one side of the table to be cleared more efficiently, and no outside food is allowed.

Customers and employees must wear masks, and signs around the property remind people of best safety practices.

Before reopening, Potomac Point was doing wine curbside and delivery orders, which Ms. Causey said has kept the business “holding on by a fingernail” over the last several weeks. She said she is ecstatic to reopen and reservations have been fully booked for the next two weeks.

Scott James, manager of Lucky Bird Tattoo in Annapolis, originally thought that tattoo parlors were going to be included in phase one as a personal care business.

Tattoo shops already are hyper-vigilant about being sterile because they are creating open wounds, Mr. James said.

But they have taken additional measures to protect customers from COVID-19, such as operating by appointment only, requiring artists to become barbicide certified, removing touchable items in the waiting room, and having customers wear face masks and wash hands upon entry, he said.

Should tattoo shops have been included in Maryland’s phase one?

“It’s a tough one,” Mr. James said. “I don’t want to argue against the concern because we are always concerned we are going to slow down the pace of progress. At the same time I don’t think we are that much different than barbershop and we probably should have been included.”

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