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Restaurants play a key role in today’s fast-paced society and have been hit hard by recent governmental mandates to hinder the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Restaurants must now be takeout and delivery only, and crowds larger than 50 are banned, according to a mandate released March 16 by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Additionally, Edwards released a “stay-at-home” order that went into effect Monday at 5 p.m. The new order closes public state government offices, malls, entertainment businesses and personal care and grooming companies. Businesses closed to the public can conduct necessary activities such as payroll, cleaning services and upkeep as necessary.

Businesses providing essential services as defined by federal guidelines that will remain open include health care providers, pharmacies, grocery stores, utilities, transportation and logistics companies, banks, media outlets, auto repair shops and “critical” manufacturing.

Bars, casinos, theaters, gyms and fitness centers were closed until April 12.

Local restauranteurs, like other small business owners, have had to redirect their day-to-day operations to conform to the mandate. Many have cut hours of operation and discontinued their dine-in service, but these moves have come with dire consequences. Majority of restaurants have reported a significant drop in incoming revenues. Some have started laying off employees due to the mandate.

Before the mandate, Big Johns and File’, together, employed 40 people, said Jessica Mabry, owner of the establishments. Now, both restaurants employee 10 people.

“We are going day-to-day and hour-by-hour,” Mabry said. “We had to let most of our people go.”

Big John’s and File’ are offering curbside service, take out and call in, Mabry said.

Fox’s Pizza is now closing an hour earlier each night and are offering pick up and call in orders to save money.

“We were seeing that our customers were not ordering past 8 p.m.,” Bland said.

It is not “business as usual” for Fox’s with the change in ordering.

“There have been times when vehicles were around the parking lot and employees would go outside and take the orders to move the traffic faster,” said Sammy Bland, owner of Fox’s Pizza. “The employees were taking orders like Chick-fil-A does. We will bring the food out to them.”

At this time, he is not planning any employee layoffs, Bland said.

“We’re going by the mandate and keeping people outside of the restaurant,” Bland said.

Tywanda Lee, owner of B&W Unique Foods for the Soul, said she has felt a reduction in business since the mandate.

“It has been slow,” Lee said. “We now only employee two people. We originally employed eight.”

B&W is offering curbside service and call in, but Lee said customers do not have to call in.

“They can come to the door and order,” Lee said. “They may have to wait a little longer, but they can come.”

Johnny’s Pizza continues to have their regular hours with no layoffs, said Warren Nell, restaurant manager.

Johnny’s is taking call-in orders and food can be picked up and delivered in Winnsboro, Nell said. Customers can go to the counter and order.

“But, that is as far as they can go,” Nell said.

It is going to take a community-wide effort to help local restaurants and businesses, said Lisa Kiper, Winnsboro-Franklin Chamber of Commerce president.

“We need to support our local restaurants,” Kiper said. “They are working hard to service their customers as best as they can. All our local businesses are striving to maintain an economic balance and safe health practices for employees and customers during this trying time.”

Kiper and her fellow Chamber members have went to social media to help boost local business sales.

“We are promoting our local restaurants on our social media sites, and we have put together a post that will list their hours, addresses and contact information for each of them,” Kiper said.

Kay LaFrance, Winnsboro’s Main Street director, said to “think local” when choosing a restaurant or business.

“The importance of shopping locally cannot be stressed enough in these trying times - and of course that includes ordering lunch or dinner from our wonderful local restaurants,” LaFrance said. “Most of them are open for takeout, which makes it so easy to accommodate a hungry family. Just call your order in and a server will meet you at the curb.

And please, please don’t forget to include a nice tip, just as you would if you were enjoying the good service inside A double order to share with someone special would be a nice way to check on a friend, as would a gift card. However you choose to do it, just think local. It’s never been more important.”

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, coughing and trouble breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

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