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Open for business: Longtime Asheville restaurant makes it happen in a hurry

Open for business: Longtime Asheville restaurant makes it happen in a hurry
Mellow Mushroom in Asheville reopened at 5 p.m. Friday to a good crowd of people, many of whom chose to dine outside. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Like a masked NASCAR pit crew, workers at Mellow Mushroom raced to measure for social distancing and put up signs so the safety rules would be clear. They cleaned up and down and got pizza ovens ready to go.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper said the state would go to Phase 2 at 5 p.m. Friday, with such businesses as salons and restaurants allowed to reopen with restrictions.

And at 5 p.m. Friday, the restaurant opened to a good-size crowd. And the staff couldn't be happier.

"I'm excited. We all needed to get back to work and make some money," Mellow Mushroom employee Keith Swigeart said. "The more pizza we put out, the happier people can get. So, let's to do it safely."

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But owner Gerry Mahon knows it won't be easy.

"To be quite honest with you, I'm scared to death," Mahon said as the restaurant was about to open for the first time since March 17. "Hopefully, we can get everybody to follow the guidelines that have been set for us without any major issues. And, hopefully, we'll still be able to be profitable in some way or another."

The first customers in line Friday evening were members of the Bennett family from Asheville. The mom, dad and four kids were hungry for more than good food.

"It just feels really good to be able to get them out and be able to enjoy a different environment than just staying at home," Madi Bennett said.

Dad loves the pizza and the way the restaurant is dealing with the COVID-19 restrictions.

"They're doing a wonderful job, making sure everything's safe and clean, and it looks like they're following to the tee, to make sure they protect themselves and us as well," Toney Bennett said.

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Mahon wants what's happening here to go beyond locals out-and-about again.

"We're, hopefully, going to be able to maintain a lot of visitors and tourists that will appreciate us, because we've taken the time and the effort to go to these lengths to be safe," Mahon said. "In the long haul, I think it'll be good for us.”

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