Northern Va. excluded from reopening, local business reacts

Local businesses like Celtic House are hit hard by the coronavirus closures. With take-out only, co-owner Michael McMahon says business is down 80 percent. (Source: GrayDC)
Local businesses like Celtic House are hit hard by the coronavirus closures. With take-out only, co-owner Michael McMahon says business is down 80 percent. (Source: GrayDC)(GRAYDC)
Published: May. 15, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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The re-opening is delayed once again in Northern Virginia – as COVID-19 cases are still in the rise for this region. Friday, the

reported 28,672 total cases confirmed for the commonwealth. Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) approved the request of local leaders to be excluded from the first stage economic reopening.

At Celtic House in Arlington, the business owners say they’re down at lease 80 percent due to the coronavirus closures. They hope leaders will soon allow dining inside as their space is very limited on the patio. Based on the county codes, they're not even sure their outdoor seating area would be eligible for the initial postponed re-opening.

"It has really affected us a lot," said co-owner Michael McMahon about the coronavirus crisis.

The doors of the traditional Irish pub opened five years ago. McMahon and his business partner, Rolando Canales, - both immigrants - say launching this restaurant was their American Dream. McMahon is originally from Ireland and Canales from El Salvador.

But things came to a screeching halt around Saint Patrick’s Day, when the Governor said gatherings had to be limited to 10 people for public safety reasons. The pub switched to take-out only and originally planned to reopen Friday.

McMahon says because cases are still climbing in Northern Virginia, he supports the regional decision to push back the reopening. But he says they can’t go on like this for months. If their business is going to survive, they need customers to be able to start dining in.

“There’s a great bond between customers - we have some great conversations here. That's what the Irish pub is all about. You know, a hard day at work, people come and have a pint and relax and enjoy each other's company,” said McMahon.

McMahon says he believes they can more easily sanitize and enforce social distancing rules if Arlington County allows them to have a portion of guests start dining in. For this business - like many others - the paycheck protection program is keeping them afloat.

McMahon says he's very grateful from the support from their landlords, the community and staff. He describes the team as very close-knit and says it's the most important part of their restaurant. So far, he says they've been able to keep on all of their 19 workers.

"All the people that are living around this area really love us and we love them, and they're very supportive, and they don't want us to fail. I'll be very sad if we fail," said McMahon.

For now, the reopening in northern Virginia is delayed until at least May 29th.

The Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce provided the following statement for this report. “Northern Virginia’s economy has been hit hard, but our economic diversity will help us sustain during this crisis. We are relying on federal, state and local governments to fully respond to the health crisis so that our businesses can reopen safely as soon as possible. We will be watching closely how reopening is affecting the spread of COVID-19 around Virginia and other parts of the country, and will identify the kinds of best practices that could hasten our safe reopening here in Northern Virginia. We need to get back to work safely and soon," said President and CEO Julie Coons.

Copyright 2020 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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