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Governor Northam tightens Virginia COVID restrictions as daily new cases increase rapidly

The new rules affect the restaurant industry most heavily, as gatherings are now capped at 25 people and no alcohol may be served after 10:00 PM beginning Sunday night.

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As COVID-19 surges in states across the country, Governor Ralph Northam today announced new actions to mitigate the spread of the virus in Virginia. While the Commonwealth’s case count per capita and positivity rate remain comparatively low, all five health regions are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, positive tests, and hospitalizations.

“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” said Governor Northam. “Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”

Governor Northam shared a new video to update Virginians on the additional steps the Commonwealth is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which is available here.

The following measures will take effect at midnight on Sunday, November 15:

  • Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
  • Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
  • Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.
  • On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight. Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, however, under current restrictions, individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10:00 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.

Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. While Southwest Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, all five of the Commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate over five percent. Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.

On Tuesday, Governor Northam announced new contracts with three laboratories as part of the Commonwealth’s OneLabNetwork, which will significantly increase Virginia’s public health testing capacity. Contracts with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, and Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk will directly support high-priority outbreak investigations, community testing events, and testing in congregate settings, with a goal of being able to perform 7,000 per day by the end of the year.

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IHOP, Michaels, CAVA, and &Pizza among new retailers now open at Willow Lawn

A number of new restaurants and retailers have recently opened their doors at Willow Lawn.

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A number of new retailers and restaurants have recently opened their doors at Willow Lawn.

Pancake house IHOP opened March 5 in a 4,094 square-foot space between Alpha Comics and European Wax. 60 new positions were hired for the restaurant, which seats 150 customers inside and 32 on an outside patio.

The arts and crafts store Michaels opened at Willow Lawn on February 27. Michaels is in a 17,477 square-foot space near Gold’s Gym and Ross Dress for Less.

Other new additions at Willow Lawn include CAVA, which opened in January 2021, and &Pizza, which opened its first Richmond location at the shopping center in September 2020.

In addition to IHOP and Michaels, Willow Lawn features a variety of retail, dining, and services including Kroger, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Alpha Comics & Games, Lucky Road, and Pho 95 Hai Ky Mi Gia.

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United Way kicks off annual free tax prep service

The local nonprofit will offer both in-person and virtual tax preparation services in 2021.

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With an April 15 tax-filing deadline just 10 weeks away, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program officially began last week. The free tax preparation service is offered to area families with household incomes of less than $56,000.

In its 18th year of operation, United Way’s VITA program will utilize a combination of tax sites across Richmond, Goochland, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Charles City as well as online tax preparation services. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person tax sites will operate by appointment only, and spaces may be limited. Sites will follow social distancing guidelines and require masks, and hours of operation are subject to change. An up-to-date list of locations and hours is available at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/sites/w.

For online preparation services, United Way will utilize a new secure web portal that allows participants to upload tax information, speak to IRS certified tax preparers and receive help filing taxes online – all for free. Those using the service will need to upload photos of their ID cards and tax documents and answer questions about their tax situation. The service requires filers to have access to the internet and a camera through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

“With tax season upon us and financial uncertainty due to the pandemic still a reality for many in the region, it is more important than ever for households to be able to plan for what they might owe or have coming back to them,” said James Taylor, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “Our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is an impactful service that we provide every year. This year’s blend of in-person and virtual options will allow us to meet this challenging moment and help thousands of local families work toward financial stability.”

In 2020, local United Way volunteers helped secure $2.8 million in tax refunds for 2,790 households in the area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $790,000 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $23,652.

Find more information at https://www.yourunitedway.org/tax/.

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Richmond EDA approves grant to ChopChop to create rate reduction program

During its January 28, 2021 meeting, the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond approved awarding a $120,000 grant to local restaurant delivery company ChopChop.  The grant will allow the company to create the Richmond Rate Reduction Program. 

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During its January 28, 2021 meeting, the Economic Development Authority of the City of Richmond approved awarding a $120,000 grant to local restaurant delivery company ChopChop.  The grant will allow the company to create the Richmond Rate Reduction Program.

The Richmond Rate Reduction Program reduces delivery fees charged to local restaurants from 20% to 7% for a three-month period.  The company will also add 75-100 new restaurants, breweries, and distilleries to its delivery platform and create 150 new jobs (3-5 permanent employees and 145-148 contracted delivery jobs) during the three-month period.  The long-term objective is for ChopChop to keep its delivery fee charged to restaurants at 7 percent.

“My team and I are very excited for this opportunity to not only expand our offerings, but also allow restaurants to retain more profit when they need it most,” said ChopChop Owner and Operator Chris Chandler. “A 13 percent rate reduction will make a significant difference, especially now that meal delivery is so prevalent.”

“Richmonders have been supporting our restaurant industry diligently by ordering takeout and delivery since March,” said Mayor Stoney. “The next time you order through ChopChop, more of your bill will go directly to the restaurants you love, supporting employees and management alike.”

ChopChop currently has 120 employees on staff, 98 percent of which are contracted drivers who work 5 to 40 hours per week.  The company currently serves approximately 65 percent of the City of Richmond. The growth from this program will allow the company to serve the entire city.

“When the Small Business Support Grant Programs Cooperation Agreement was authorized, our goal was to help restaurants save on delivery costs,” said EDA Chairman John Molster, “The grant to ChopChop meets that goal and goes above and beyond to provide jobs and expand delivery capacity.”

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