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Kentucky restaurant owners shocked, but pleasantly surprised by May 22 reopening date

With the date coming earlier than expected, some restaurant owners are scrambling to prepare for a scaled-back reopening.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Are you ready to head back to your favorite restaurant? Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced Thursday that restaurants would be able to reopen on May 22. The decision was unexpected but has been a pleasant surprise for restaurant owners in the state.

On May 22, restaurants will be able to open with a limited indoor seating capacity of 33%, plus unlimited outdoor seating with the right spacing.

Right on Harrods Creek, customers have continued to pick up their favorite dinner orders from Cunninghams. Owner Brent George thought he'd have at least a few more weeks to plan for a bigger reopening - until he heard Beshear's announcement Thursday evening.

RELATED: Restaurants can reopen May 22, Kentucky governor says

Restaurants like Cunninghams who have more outdoor seating options will have the upper hand during the phased reopening.

"We'll try to take full advantage of that and maybe make up for some of our lost capacity inside the restaurant by seating people outside," Brent George said.

Stacy Roof, with the Kentucky Restaurant Association, says that the outdoor options, especially during this time of year, could slowly put back trust into the community.

RELATED: Kentucky retail stores prepare to reopen, implement new safety measures

"It's perfect patio weather. And I think that it'll be a good way to get people back and get them comfortable and confident in what restaurants can do," Roof said.

Beshear said the opening date will allow restaurants to be open for Memorial Day weekend, but he still urged everyone to be careful.

Brent George said he expects a limited number of customers as Cunninghams reopens its dining areas, but the numbers are not easy to figure out at this point.

"It's not like you have one seating per night it's a situation where those tables are constantly turning over," George said.

Cunninghams currently has a small staff handling lunch and dinner carry-outs, but because of the small number of customers allowed inside with the governor's plan, George may have to hold back on bringing his full staff of waiters and bartenders back. It's a tough decision to make because they are the people most impacted by the 33% capacity limit.

Roof said for even smaller restaurants, that 33% is a tough number, but there's a bright side to the earlier date. She said it gives them options to reevaluate and reopen at their own pace.

Contact reporter Jessie Cohen at JCohen@whas11.com and follow her on TwitterFacebook or Instagram

RELATED: COVID-19 deaths reported at JBS, Perdue plants in Kentucky, hundreds of workers test positive: KDPH

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