Delaware beach bars make adjustments during COVID-19 outbreak

A Dewey Beach, Delaware, restaurant owner tells FOX 5 he is closing this weekend because he “wanted to do the right thing” as COVID-19 concerns grow along the Delaware shore.

Steve Montgomery is the owner of The Starboard and The Starboard Raw in Dewey Beach. Montgomery said he plans to have all of his around 100 or more employees tested for the coronavirus after a few staff members reported feeling ill and later testing positive.

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“We didn’t close because we wanted to close. Obviously, the virus is real. Three or four weeks ago when the beaches started to open up, everybody, all our employees came down. We quadrupled in size in people down here and our staff as well. We started to see a couple down here - started through the staff start to feel bad, start to test, a couple of negatives, a couple positives,” said Montgomery in a Zoom interview with FOX 5.

Montgomery said he was in touch with the state health department, which he says informed him he has the right protocols in place. However, with a few staffers getting sick, he decided to take a next step.

“Due to an increased exposure within our beach communities, we’re taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our staff and our guests …” part of an online statement posted by The Starboard Restaurant’s social media account. They closed Friday at noon.

"Most of the day in the restaurants and bars are very safe. Wearing masks. When it becomes a bar environment, after 10:30-11 p.m. at night. It’s difficult getting people to wear masks,” said Montgomery.

The announcement comes one day after Delaware’s Governor John Carney announced the state of Delaware would not move to its Phase 3 reopening on Monday, June 29, as anticipated.

“Too many Delawareans and visitors are not following basic public health precautions. We’ve heard and seen concerns especially in our beach communities, in restaurants, in gyms, and at sporting events,” a statement from Governor Carney read. “Now’s not the time to let up. You’re required to wear a mask in public settings. Keep your distance from those outside your household. These are common sense steps that, frankly, are not that difficult to follow. And they’re a small price to pay for keeping our friends and relatives out of the hospital.”

The governor’s office also said testing conducted in Rehoboth on Thursday will give them an opportunity to analyze what’s happening in the state’s coastal towns.

Also in Dewey, FOX 5 spoke with the owner of Woody’s Bar and Grill.

The owner told FOX 5 he is not dealing with sick employees but did decide to go back to “takeout only” in an effort to keep customers and staffers safe. The restaurant had been allowed to operate limited indoor dining and outdoor dining by the state. FOX 5 was told other restaurants in the area are planning the same.

“It’s not been fun in 2020,” said Montgomery. “It does not matter what business you’re in and what industry. It’s a challenge. And, you know everyone is really is trying to do their best. It’s, you know, you’re trying to make the right decision. We’re all, we’re not so concerned about youngsters and their health – getting this virus because we know most of them are fine – we’re concerned, everyone is about grandparents, parents and the spread and things like that. And you have to think about your neighbor.”

Montgomery tells FOX 5 he fully plans to reopen by Tuesday and will be ready for crowds on July 4 weekend. He is just asking everyone to do their part to keep themselves and others safe.

On Friday evening, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health released the following statement, in part, to FOX 5: 

"We are working diligently to identify potential outbreaks in the beach area, and ask that businesses that are concerned about an outbreak notify DPH so we can provide guidance and answer questions.  It’s important to note that exposures are still occurring statewide, and not just at the beach, but based on two separate clusters related to Senior Week we are monitoring the beach area more closely for potential outbreaks.

Additionally, some businesses have chosen to limit their staff’s exposure by either closing, adjusting hours of operation, or limiting service options (such as take out versus dine-in). We appreciate and encourage any actions businesses are taking to mitigate the potential spread of the disease among their staff and customers."