Simonne Ritchy isn’t ready to reopen yet.

Watching protests around the country, including the ones in Raleigh, with people advocating for reopening businesses, Ritchy says she doesn’t think it’s the right call.

“Even if the governor had come out and said he would open back up,” she says, “we would not have opened back up.”

The owner of McCoul’s Public House in downtown Greensboro says she’s waiting until May 8 to make a decision about whether to restart her business. The last day the doors of her pub were open was on Sunday, March 15, two days before St. Patrick’s Day, one of the restaurant’s biggest days of the year.

“We were super busy on that Saturday and we were reading about how contagious and dangerous the virus was,” Ritchy says. “And after watching the weekend, I sat down with my managers and I said, ‘I don’t think we can do this safely.’ It’s already a stressful day for us. People want to get wild, and the last thing you want is to be the place where people got sick.”

Image may contain: possible text that says 'cours PUBLIC HOUSE ENTRANCE'
Ritchy has been operating McCoul’s Public House since 2001. (courtesy photo)

Now, more than a month since shutting down her business, Ritchy says she misses her staff and her customers, but wants to make sure when she does reopen, she does so carefully and mindfully.

“We’re tossing ideas of slowly integrating back in with family meals in the first week of May,” she says. “I want to do it slowly and figure out the safest way to do it.”

In her free time, she’s been fixing up the place, replacing old tiles in the bathroom and doing some drain work. She also wired a lighting fixture in her home’s dining room — a skill she picked up from owning and operating the restaurant for the past two decades.

She goes on walks with her kids and watches TV shows, and says she was cleaning her house regularly to fill the time.

“For the first couple of weeks, my house was so clean,” she says. “But then it hit this point where I got sick of cleaning.”

Mostly, she says she misses working in the pub.

“I miss the people,” she says. “The staff, the regulars, the camaraderie. I mean, we’re all family so it’s really hard. It’s hard to not be able to see the people that you care about.”

But she has no regrets about closing the restaurant.

“It’s just for the greater good,” Ritchy says. “I could have stayed open and I could have had an incredible St. Patty’s Day, but then I would have been waiting by the phone to see at what cost. It was hard but at the same time, it wasn’t that hard to make that decision.”

In the meantime, bills are piling up, she says.

“At the end of the day, I’m a business owner and I’m suffering,” she says. “I can’t pay my bills either, but what’s the point if I go out there and catch something and bring it home to my children? I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, Ritchy says she went around to different restaurants to see how they were handling the virus and taking precautions. What she saw didn’t reassure her about reopening any time soon.

“I didn’t notice any extra precautions at any of the takeout places,” she says. “I was shocked that there was nothing to emulate there.”

When she does reopen eventually, Ritchy says she’ll probably have limited hours and a limited menu to start.

“I’m ready to go back, but I’m not,” she says. “I’m ready to work, but I’m not ready to risk it.”

Simonne at-a-glance:

  • Favorite thing eaten in quarantine: Asahi sushi for my daughter’s birthday. We got a little bit of everything: sushi, noodles, appetizers, fried rice. It was all delicious.
  • Quarantine silver lining: It’s funny because it is stressful so when I wake up, I remind myself of all of the things I’m grateful for. It’s also been really nice to be able to spend long chunks of time with my children without interruption, without work. That’s not something I’ve ever been able to do.
  • What you are watching/reading/listening to: We just went through “Schitt’s Creek,” which is really funny. It’s really fun to listen to music that your kids are finding. I’ve been introduced to all kinds of stuff.
  • Words of encouragement: I have so many friends who live alone, and I know how hard it is. But if we don’t go through this pain now, it’s going to be so much worse later down the line. Just stay strong.

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