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Restaurants anticipate Cinco de Mayo business boost

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 11:22 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Cinco de Mayo falling on a Wednesday this year provides a weekday business boost for restaurants in downtown Wilmington that typically see a large crowd for the holiday.

“We’re just happy to be back pretty much full force,” said Hayley Jensen, owner of Beer Barrio downtown.

Last year, Cinco de Mayo fell when restaurants were only allowed to serve food for take-out and, according to Jensen, they could not serve pre-made alcoholic drinks. Jensen says that despite the restrictions, the holiday was one of their busiest days during the pandemic.

“People were so supportive,” said Jensen. “We did margarita mix to-go at that point, we weren’t allowed to sell made margaritas.”

Along Front Street Wednesday afternoon families and friends shared food, drinks, and laughs at their tables as restaurant staff members hustled to serve everyone as crowds grew.

For Jensen, the holiday comes as her restaurant, like others around the Cape Fear, is experiencing a staffing shortage. To keep up with the heightened business today, the restaurant prepared to sacrifice some of the operations to keep up good service for those dining both indoors and out.

“It becomes tougher to do a lot of to-go orders when the restaurant itself is so busy,” said Jensen. “Sometimes, rather than going on too long of a wait and making everyone wait and wait for food, sometimes we’ll off to-go orders if the kitchen can’t sustain it, which I anticipate will happen tonight.”

Looking back at the uncertainty of the pandemic a year ago, Jensen is thankful that she has a steady crowd ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at her restaurant Wednesday.

“We’ve kind of gotten to a point now where things are only loosening, there’s not going to be more restrictions, there’s only going to be less and less, so I think with that light at the end of the tunnel everyone has been really patient with us and understanding,” said Jensen.

Jensen says she hopes to have a full staff by Memorial Day, which she marks as the “heart” of the season. Despite the challenges, she is grateful for the customers that have supported businesses throughout Wilmington and for the staff members who keep them running.

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