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Regulars return to restaurants, salon owner tries to keep up with flood of customers as Lincoln reopens
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Regulars return to restaurants, salon owner tries to keep up with flood of customers as Lincoln reopens

From the Milestones in Nebraska's coronavirus fight series
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LaVonna Miller, Cindy Rosenquist, and David and Pam Espinoza are regulars at Carmela's, a southeast Lincoln bistro and wine bar.

So, with their favorite spot open for the first time in weeks, they met up for food and drinks Monday evening.

"It feels good to get out and see the familiar faces again," said Rosenquist, who was a weekly guest for several years before the spread of the coronavirus shut down restaurants to in-person dining, and closed salons and barbershops and tattoo parlors.

"We could be afraid to go out," Rosenquist added, "but we know it won’t go away until there’s a vaccine. You just need to be safe."

For Marci Davison of Carmela's, and other Lincoln business owners, reopening after a trying six weeks marked a milestone of sorts.

Stephanie Standley, who co-owns Bah-Shah Salon at The Shoppes at Piedmont, reopened Monday after state and local officials agreed to relax directed health measures that had required nail and hair salons to close, along with massage businesses and tattoo parlors.

But she also knows she's in for a hectic few weeks, with plans to work 12-hour days four to five days a week and appointments booked through June.

Not only is Standley trying to fit in as many of her own clients as possible, she's also trying to fit in some of those of her business partner, who decided not to come back to work right now because she's pregnant.

She said customers have been understanding as she navigates the new normal of wearing masks, doing extra sanitizing and only letting one person in the salon at a time through a locked door.

"It's a lot, but people are being very gracious, thankfully," she said.

Bah-Shah was among a number of Lincoln businesses, including restaurants offering dine-in service, that reopened their doors Monday after being closed because of restrictions instituted to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The easing of restrictions in Lancaster County followed one week after businesses were allowed to reopen in the Omaha area and in most counties across the state.

In other areas, primarily counties with food-processing plants, restrictions remain in place for at least another week.

In Lincoln, where the number of cases doubled last week, some businesses planned to take things a bit slower in reopening.

A person who answered the phone at Mojo's Dermagraphics & Design, a tattoo and piercing shop near Ninth and A streets, said the shop was spending Monday contacting clients to reschedule appointments that had been canceled when the shop was forced to close.

Mojo's later posted on its Facebook page that it would only be taking appointments and they "will be staggered to minimize the number of people in the shop at one time."

Omaha restaurants see sparse crowds; many choose to stay closed

A number of other tattoo parlors, as well as many massage businesses, decided it was too risky to reopen right now.

Iron Brush Tattoo and Body Piercing, which donated 13,000 pairs of gloves to Bryan Health in late March after it decided to close, said it wasn't ready to open the doors just yet.

"We have chosen to remain closed for the short term until we feel it is a better time to open," the business said in a Facebook post. "It is never an easy decision, but we love our community and want to do what we feel is best."

Iron Brush also said in its post, "We also respect those who may chose to open. We wish ALL and EVERYONE safety and good health, and great tattoos."

Local restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining rooms Monday, as long as they followed a number of rules, including limiting customer numbers to no more than 50% of normal seating capacity.

Brenda Failor, who owns Penelope's Lil' Cafe near 48th Street and Pioneers Boulevard, said Mondays are generally a slow day for the restaurant, but the first day back was "very, very slow."

"We did maybe one-fourth of what we would normally do on a Monday," she said.

New world, new rules: Closed since March, Lincoln businesses allowed to reopen

Thankfully, Failor said business for curbside pickup service Sunday was "unbelievable."

She said she's hoping that as people get more comfortable with the idea of sitting in a restaurant, things will get better.

"I think in time, hopefully, it will pick up."

The story was much the same at Stauffer's Cafe and Pie Shoppe near 48th Street and Nebraska 2.

Front-end Manager Sydney Stauffer said that while the restaurant was still doing a brisk carryout business, things in the dining room were slow over the lunch hour.

"We're limited to 50% capacity, and we're not anywhere near that," she said.

Carmela's, which used recent weeks to remodel the dining room and refresh the menu, opened Monday at 5 p.m.

Granite City, a restaurant at Gateway Mall, opened at 3 p.m., with regulars among the first guests to return.

"We come here every Thursday for lunch with our family and know the servers and bartenders," said Mark Feit. "We want to support them."

A number of local restaurants chose not to open dining rooms Monday, including Buzzard Billy's, Lazlo's and Single Barrel.

In a Facebook post, Buzzard Billy's explained why it will not be reopening its dining room at this time.

Cindy Lange-Kubick: 'We’re really uncomfortable opening to the public until cases locally start to drop'

"When you choose to eat at our restaurant, part of what you can expect with your meal is the high level of service we strive to show every customer," the post said. "Unfortunately, due to current restrictions and health concerns, we feel the dining experience customers have come to expect at Buzzard Billy's would be negatively impacted, and that's just not something we're comfortable with."

Photos: Lincoln during the pandemic 

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

News intern

Samantha Bernt is a Fremont native and a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in journalism and broadcasting. She joined the Journal Star in 2019 as a reporting intern.

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