Entering Phase Two…

Entering Phase Two… 

Today, Friday, May 22nd, North Carolina enters “Phase Two” of the scheduled “Re-opening” of the State. Phase Two will allow for limited Dine-in service at Restaurants (bars are not included, which is convoluted, since there is no definition of a “bar” in NC, beyond the antiquated “private club” rules, and many restaurants have a bar, and could seat people at the bar, yadda yadda… nothing is easy when there is literally no precedent.) The bottom line is that dine-in service is about to become a thing again. With that in mind…

PLEASE BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY that there is no one — NO ONE — in this city who wants to sit down inside of a restaurant and have a meal cooked and served to them by friendly and talented professionals more than this guy, me, Stu Helm, known as “The Food Fan.”

But there is also no way on earth I’m doing that until the case count from the deadly world-wide pandemic that the United States is now the epicenter of starts to go DOWN instead of UP.

I’m personally not eating in any restaurants, at all, until the medical experts that I trust say it’s a safe thing to do, and so far none of them has said that.

The wordsPhase Two” are absolutely, positively, 100% meaningless. It won’t be any safer on the day that Phase 2 goes into effect than it was the day before, and in fact the opposite will be true, as the numbers are going up, not down.

The case count is rising.

Please understand that if you decide to dine-in at a restaurant, you are placing yourself and others at greater risk for sickness, death, and spreading of disease. That is just a simple fact.

I am not so anxious to experience table service that I’m willing to get sick, die, or pass this seriously horrible and deadly Coronavirus unknowingly on to others.


Below are the absolute latest and most up-to-date guidelines available for restaurants to reopen, endorsed by Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, The NC Department of Health and Human Services, and me (for whatever that’s worth).

I respect all restaurant owners. I don’t pretend to know the hard decisions they have to make. I can only speak as an eater, and a fan, so I do, as often and strongly as possible.

These are serious times. Not understanding them as such can have very serious consequences.

Click to access NC-DHHS-Interim-Guidance-for-Restaurants-5-19-20-Final.pdf

Other Voices

James Sutherland – Blue Dream Curry House: [We] will be takeout only for the time being. No point in taking any unnecessary risks right now. I don’t think business owners who are in a rush to reopen realize the consequences there will be if even one member of their staff tests positive. Why rush to get a few dollars when the risk could be catastrophic? Also, I have to mention, we are so thankful for this Asheville community that has supported us in a safe, responsible way through all of this.

Chef Jay Medford – Storm Rhum Bar & BIstro / Undergroud Cafe with Doughp Doughnuts: I’ve got mixed emotions all around, I’m lucky at Storm where we have the patio that we can space out, we will slowly ease into inside dining around June 1st (only with staff that feels comfortable coming back) with all safety precautions in tow and we won’t be seating many people at all inside. The Cafe will remain take-out only most likely through the summer. People also need to realize what we are facing on the other end. We are allowed to “open now” that being said the stuff we are getting breaks on currently (ie rent, smaller payments, smaller bills) now may stop since we can open. I would say trust in yourself to do what’s right. And believe me when I say, I have no qualms in making customers follow the rules, and [I will] make people leave that are too entitled (I may or may not end up on a video feed! ha ha!) but we are taking all precautions and encouraging people to use only the patio and respect the distance and space restrictions.

Chef Melissa Gray – Rosabee’s / Cakes by Gray: Please understand that we as owners are hugely conflicted by this. It’s absolutely doesn’t seem right to open and we know that. We also don’t have the luxury to stay closed until it’s over. Just because we moved into phase two doesn’t mean covid magically disappeared. We know that. We are being forced to make tough decisions to open back up. All the landlords, vendors, loan companies, insurance companies, etc, who have been gracious for this long will not continue after we have the option to reopen. It’s not a choice really anymore. All we can do is create a process and execute that plan precisely to ensure the safety for our staff and guests. We are taking huge steps to make that happen like outdoor seating, reservation only, dining time limits, no menus….the list is long. Here we are and trust me when I say, this is serious and any responsible person is taking it that way. If take-out feels better to you, please continue doing that. If you’re comfortable dining in, follow the rules and make good choices. We are in this together and if we want to see our favorite restaurants survive, this is the only option for some of us. Even if, we all know it’s not the best idea. To add, we had an open date set for June 2nd but we have decided to wait a little longer to make sure everything is in place for our restaurants safety guidelines.

Worker 1: So much anxiety about going back to serving this next week.

Worker 2: I’m so sorry for everyone who is being prematurely forced back to work. I’m in the same boat. I’m scared too. Let’s support each other the best we can.

Worker 3: As a restaurant worker, I’m scared for my work to open back up. I don’t want to have to choose between my safety and my ability to pay my bills but that choice is coming sooner than I’d like.

Worker 4: I have been back to work as a bartender and server for a week now and I do not care for it at all. But, we are not allowed to refuse work… soooo. But, it is bullshit, banks only do drive through, stores have plastic guards, hotels are installing plastic guards, government offices are not open, yet I still have to serve drinks to patrons gathering in large groups and not wearing masks.

No Mask No Service Signs

A couple of business owners asked me to design a “No Mask, No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign, so here they are. You can click on the images to open hgh-resolution versions that are suitable for printing.

And here’s one made using the “Love Asheville” Font.

end —

Thanks for reading!

If you want to, no presh, you can tip me for my writing or for whatever reason you want, through Venmo at Stu-Helm, or through Paypal at stuhelmavl@gmail.com

Asheville Food Tours


From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O'SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.

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3 thoughts on “Entering Phase Two…

  1. I’m a chef stew and I have on my own restaurant in town and bakery and I’ve worked at a lot of restaurants in town you are absolutely correct. These kitchens are so small all of them are ancient old as hell. The ventilation system doesn’t work in the kitchen. It’s hot as hell everybody sweating. People have to come into work sick because this is a paycheck by paycheck job. And we count on the tourist and the last thing we want is the tourist here right now. Ashley is going to have a hard time because the locals the ones I have a brain aren’t going to eat out. And the ones that are eating out or going to get the virus and give it to everybody else because their inconsiderate


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