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A sample of Moore County area restaurants revealed that residents and businesses were ready to dine out under the new coronavirus phase 2 protocol this past holiday weekend.

The Bell Tree Tavern in downtown Southern Pines offers a full drink menu with its hearty entrees, wholesome wraps and sandwiches, a wide array of appetizers and a children’s menu. They had some regular customers, but the majority were occasional and some were new “because people wanted to get out, so we were fortunate,” owner Con O’Mahoney said about being open during this difficult time.

O’Mahoney said that they had to spend more on making the place safe as possible with masks, gloves, signage and disposable menus and a new sanitary Meridian Kiosk from Chris and Christa Gilder. Meridian is a local company in Aberdeen that “completely transitioned to offer something new during this pandemic.”

“Ya know, we thank everybody that has supported us through this tough time. We want to make it safe and help our employees make a living. We are very blessed,” O’Mahoney said.

“Just had dinner at The Bell Tree tonight with my family,” said customer Matt Ryan. “It was so refreshing to be back in a restaurant and honestly the tables being 6 feet apart were nice because we didn’t feel crowded at all. Eating fresh, hot food on a hot plate instead of from a take-out box was a welcoming return to normalcy. The food and staff were amazing as they have always been. We loved every bit of it.”

Ironwood in Pinehurst offered their Southern-inspired dishes married with international and local ingredients, and owner Vince Continenza said that he was glad to finally be back open even at 50% capacity.

Ironwood checks the temperature of all staff before entry and will have a kiosk at the front door next week for customers to check their own temperatures and to dispense hand sanitizer.

“The restaurant filled up each day over the weekend. Our regular clientele were very happy to have a meal in a restaurant again,” Continenza said.

“Honestly, nothing was different other than more empty tables, and the servers were wearing masks. Oh, and they are no longer allowed to box up leftovers for you,” Ironwood patron Wendy Maria said.

“We had reservations for 8 of us last night at Ironwood,” said customer Kate Sibbald Kelly. “We were celebrating my birthday with my family.  I completely forgot to take pictures. We were greeted as soon as we walked into the restaurant. We made a point of social distancing as we came in and walked to our table. All of the staff wore masks. You could see the way we were seated, that the restaurant was very conscious of having more space between tables and not all tables were being used. We received the same polite, pleasant service we’ve always received. It was great to see the tables were being turned over, people were sitting at the bar and it was business as usual. Of course, the food was outstanding and we had a great night.”

Mazatlán Family Mexican Restaurant in Aberdeen is open and practicing COVID-19 precautions, beginning at the door with hand sanitizer.

“My family and I have been through a lot this past few months, we really thought about it and made the decision that we would venture out and dine in this evening. I will have to say that it was nice to finally be able to sit down and be served. We went to Mazatlán, and they were very careful and still practicing social distancing. They provided hand sanitizer at the door and took every precaution,” said resident Stephanie Bailey.

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