“We are all in this together, the guests and the employees,” said Jim Moye, the general manager at The Pointe at Lake Gaston. “We’re just looking forward to seeing people again. A lot of our regulars that come in every single day, we haven’t seen in months.”
With the first phase of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening strategy underway, restaurants like The Pointe brace for Phase Two. Moye is particularly looking at Memorial Day weekend for the green light. The Pointe hosted a full house last year, bringing out a cash bar just to handle the overflow. There was still a line at most of the bars every evening that weekend.
“Memorial Day weekend is our biggest weekend,” Moye said. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like if we’re at 25 percent capacity.”
The Pointe has been open every day through the pandemic and has done relatively well with their takeout business. “We feel obligated to keep our people working,” Moye said, describing his current crew of about 23 employees like a family. “We’ve seen them grow up, get married, and have kids.”
Through past summers, The Pointe has employed between 70 and 80 servers, bartenders, cooks, hosts, security, and more. Moye said he typically brings a lot of the same people back year after year; some have been with him for eight or nine years. His bar manager travels all the way from Emporia, Va., but he also has staff from right around the lake.
“It’s hard to find employees locally, so we have to pull from all over,” he said. “We’re currently looking for a few cooks. Do you know anyone?”
The Pointe qualified for the Payment Protection Program, which Moye said has really helped out. Some of his employees have opted to stay out of work for personal or medical reasons, and priority has been given to those with more seniority, Moye said that he has some employees who have really stepped up in the past few weeks. He’s kept staff busy in the kitchen, but also sprucing up the restaurant with fresh paint and stain on handrails, walls, and tables.
Moye said that when the weather is nice, business is usually good; the dock stays full of boats. When the weather is cold or windy, it’s not bad, but not as good as it could be. He also explained that food service is considerably different now that his staff has to package up all the food.
When the shut down rules were first issued, Moye had tables set up around the property, and some guests opted to enjoy their meals on their boats at the dock. After more clarity around the orders, he had to shut that down as well.
Looking toward the future, Moye is optimistic about reopening, but uncertain about a lot of the requirements.
“We just won a bunch of awards. We were voted best seafood and best steaks,” Moye said. “It’s good to get noticed like that. The employee’s really appreciate it. We’re just waiting patiently to get open. The problem is, we don’t know what it’s going to look like yet.”
Moye says that he hasn’t received guidance on whether he can open at 25 or 50 percent capacity inside, or about how far tables need to be spaced apart outside. He is hoping to have at least 30 tables positioned outside around the property.
“We have tons of outdoor seating. We can have tables all the way down to the point and across the beach,” Moye said. “I arranged the gazebo so the tables are six or seven feet apart and can do the same in the dining room and on the patio.”
Moye said that guests won’t be able to line up and hang out around the bar or on the beach in front of the stage like they used to because of social distancing, so customers will have to stick to their tables and enjoy any entertainment from there.
Entertainment is a big draw to The Point. They usually host a DJ on Fridays, a band on Saturdays, and a beach music-specific band every other Sunday. Moye said that they typically bring 200-500 people to the property on any given weekend.
To adapt to social distancing requirements, Moye is bringing in a giant screen that will fill the stage, and plans to host events like comedy shows and some live broadcasts. He said they might try to host westerns, disco, big hair, and jazz theme nights.
Moye hopes to still host bands through the summer, but is unsure how that will play out.
“We have to talk to the bands, and they know the situation. They’re feeling it, too” Moye said. “We have to see if they’ll come and play for less money, or just the door receipts. We can’t pay what we’ve been paying if there are only 50 people here.”
When The Pointe reopens, some of the changes guests will notice are hand sanitation stations placed around the property. The restaurant might move to using single use paper menus, or ask staff to sanitize the reusable menus between tables. The condiments located on the tables might be individual packets, which Moye said he hates to have to use. When the weather is nice, they keep most of the doors open, but there will be paper towels located where customers interact with doorknobs so they don’t have to touch them.
“One of the other things is, when we do reopen, are people going to want to get out?” Moye said. “We have a lot of customers that are in the at-risk age group.”
Moye said that the success of The Pointe, like other businesses and restaurants around the lake, depends on the six or seven warmer months of the year.
“Obviously, in any resort area, you have from Memorial Day to Labor Day, especially here at the lake,” he said. “Winters are slow, but have gotten better and better. We have a core group of regulars that appreciate it.”
Moye had to cancel The Pointe’s annual oyster festival scheduled for April, which was going to be their biggest one yet.
“The whole thing felt strange, but the whole world feels strange. We were geared up and on track to have the biggest year we’ve ever had, we were firing on all cylinders and just, boom. It’s tough,” Moye said.
Moye has spent most of his career in the food industry either in management, as a partner, and he owned a restaurant for over 20 years. One of the owners of The Pointe was one of Moye’s best guests at a place he managed in Raleigh. He invited Moye to come up and help the first year The Pointe opened 10 years ago.
Since then, Moye has seen The Point grow, pushing the building and its kitchen to the limits. He is optimistic about reopening because of their big clientele, loyal staff, and great location.
For information about upcoming events at The Pointe, and when they will reopen for on-premise dining, follow them on their Facebook page, or call 252-586-0466. The Pointe at Lake Gaston is at 1865 Eaton Ferry Rd., Littleton, N.C.