CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - About twenty people were gathered outside Hoplite Irish Pub by 5 p.m. on Friday, May 22.
“We just love this place! My wife and I have been here for two years now and Hoplite is like home," said local resident Bill Dreitzler. "There’s nothing I can imagine more than trying to support Ron and Noel’s place.”
Owners Ron and Noel Stevens say re-opening under the state’s new guidelines for 50% capacity was the easiest thing they’ve had to do over the last eight weeks after spending countless hours working up options for take-out meal service, applying for federal loans and working to get some of their own bills deferred. On Friday, the excitement among a close group of loyal locals was palpable.
“They’re not just customers, they’re our friends and they’ve been dying to get here," said Ron Stevens. "A lot of them have supported us over the last eight weeks with pickup or delivery, or just commenting on a Facebook post, social media, saying they’re excited to get back to normal.”
At the Boardwalk at Carolina Beach a half mile away, outdoor seating was full, at least to the extent it’s now allowed to be ‘full.’
Few people wore masks, but on the beach most groups seemed to be fewer than 10 people and most were spaced at least six feet apart.
“If I was indoors, it might be different, as far as masks go, but I think if you’re out in the air—open air—I don’t see a problem with that,” said Kure Beach resident Grey Goodwin. “I think people are doing a great job of trying to keep their distance and do a slow-opening, even for Memorial Day Weekend. As crowded as it is, I think people are doing a good job of trying to slowly get back to normal.”
It wasn’t the Memorial Day Weekend rush beach businesses usually look forward to but, at least for the unofficial start of business, many shared their excitement to simply be out.
A tourist visiting from Statesville said, “We just hang out on the beach all day like we always have. We don’t really go a lot of places when we come. So, we enjoyed the Carolina Smokehouse tonight—sat up top. The first place we ate at, dine-in, so we really enjoyed that.”