Wood-framed polycarbonate panels separate groups of bar patrons at Lucky 32 in Greensboro.
While restaurants were considering how to reopen their dining rooms Covid-compliantly after months of surviving on carry-out only, the “Craft Guild” of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels set about creating and installing design elements to maximize separation while minimizing loss of occupancy.
Employee-owned Quaintance-Weaver, which operates Greensboro’s Lucky 32, Print Works Bistro at Proximity Hotel and Green Valley Grill at O.Henry Hotel, stylishly implemented safety measures to seamlessly blend with the unique ambience of each of its restaurants. As they opened restaurants months apart starting with Green Valley Grill on June 4, designers took lessons learned from each and applied them to the next, all while being mindful of each venue’s unique ambiance.
You could call it Covid-Chic.
“Our designers were very thoughtful about creating dividers that blend with the overall theme of our restaurants,” said Quaintance-Weaver CEO Dennis Quaintance. “We’ve had a number of people who have stopped and said, ‘You know, this is really, really good.'”
Beyond general maintenance, the Craft Guild members — some of whom have other jobs within the organization – are skilled craftspeople and designers who create custom furnishings and features, and make repairs that require a more delicate touch than a pipe wrench and a hammer.
“We have some custom furnishings made by our our Craft Guild team and they can make repairs on things that people would pay thousands of dollars for a specialist,” said Theresa Martin, design project manager of Quaintance-Weaver. “We have it in-house. One of our team members used to work on nuclear weapons repair and he’s an awesome engineer.”
Dennis, Quaintance, CEO, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels. (Photo: 2015 @ Tigermoth Creative)
The Craft Guild adapted the approaches to fit the restaurants, from the old world luxury of Green Valley Grill to the French Bistro feel of Print Works to the classic charm of Lucky 32, with the restaurants reopening in that order.
“We assumed that after we got one done that the others would come easier, and I think that is true for the most part,” Martin said. “But each restaurant is unique. Each design project is unique. You have to consider the site and the feel of the place and design for that, and all the different surprises and problems. We knew how to whip up some partitions really quick and get them installed, but there are many considerations that we had to think about that were unique to each business.”
For their efforts, the restaurants re-opened at 50% of their pre-Covid capacity,
Here is the story in pictures.
Green Valley Grill
The Green Valley Grill at O.Henry Hotel was the first of Quaintance-Weaver’s three Greensboro restaurants to reopen amid Covid-19.
Green Valley Grill at O.Henry Hotel was the first of the three Quaintance-Weaver Greensboro restaurants to reopen. Prior to its June 4 opening to indoor dining, the company’s Craft Guild met and planned for weeks to plot strategies to provide separation and minimize loss of occupancy. The restaurant would be the proving ground for design elements later used at Print Works Bistro and Lucky 32.
“When we opened Green Valley, we really didn’t know if it would make any sense for us to try to open Printworks or Lucky 32,” Martin said. “We said we have to see how our turnout is and if it justifies having another building occupied and paying for the expenses that come with that, so, we didn’t plan ahead for those. “It wasn’t until that we were seeing success at Green Valley that we started to imagine Printworks. And when we were doing Printworks we were starting to imagine Lucky 32 simultaneously.”
Wood-framed polycarbonate partitions were installed on the booths in the dining room at Green Valley Grill.
The Craft Guild determined an effective way to separate patrons in the dining room at Green Valley Grill was to install wooden-framed polycarbonate panels. The wood was stained to match the booths and the clear panels kept open unobstructed sightlines throughout the space.
“We value safety, and if that means we are going to spend a little bit more doing it right and making it look good, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Martin said. “We want people to come back and to be reassured that they’re safe.”
The Quaintance-Weaver Hotels and Restaurants Craft Guild borrowed from the free-standing tub and shower to design clear curtains to separate booths in the bar area of the Green Valley Grill
Inspired by the classic free-standing bathtub shower curtain, the Craft Guild designed oval-shaped rods suspended from the ceiling to surround the circular booths in the bar area of Green Valley Grill. The team would apply the concept of draped booth seating in the bar area of Print Works Bistro several months later. The sheeting allows the restaurant to seat all the bar tables and booths without having to close any of them to use.
The hotel building, and many of its interior design elements, are inspired by the original O.Henry that opened in 1919 in downtown Greensboro, which was razed in 1979.
Wood-framed polycarbonate partitions were installed at the bar and clear plastic curtains draping around booths to provide separation in the bar area of Green Valley Grill
Rather than separating bar patrons by space, the Craft Guild designed and built wood-framed polycarbonate panels that blend with the decor of the Green Valley Grill. Varying widths between the panels allow for parties of two or three to sit separated from others. Although some bar seats were lost, the use of physical barriers allow for more seating than having stools or pairs of stools separated by six feet, a common practice in most restaurant bars in the Covid-19 era.
Print Works Bistro
Print Works Bistro at Proximity Hotel was the second of the three Quaintance-Weaver restaurants to re-open amid Covid-19.
Print Works Bistro opened Sept. 8, the second of the Quaintance-Weaver restaurants to reopen. The company’s Design Guild applied lessons learned in the reimagining of Green Valley Grill to the stylish Covid-proofing of the restaurant and bar, but customized the materials and colors to match the contemporary bistro ambiance.
Martin said opening the hotel restaurants before the free-standing Lucky 32 was a business decision tied to bringing the hotels back online after being temporarily closed.
“We felt that we needed to get our restaurants tied to a hotel open first,” she said.
Glass partitions separating diners from passersby in Print Works Bistro were adorned with a horizontal gold stripe to provide visibility and a design element matching the restaurant’s decor.
Conscious of Print Works’ decor, the Craft Guild designed suspended glass partitions to separate tables throughout the dining room. To make them more visible for safety reasons, they included a horizontal gold-colored stripe near eye level, a functional design element that complements the restaurant’s dominant color palette.
Inside Print Works Bistro, glass partitions are separated from foot traffic to and from the kitchen. Prior to Covid-19, this area was open.
Through the center of the dining area at Print Works Bistro is a walkway servers use to access the kitchen. Prior to Covid-19, the corridor was open to the dining area. The suspended glass panels were installed to separate the tables from the corridor, again providing an aesthetically pleasing solution. It is the kind of design element that may remain post-pandemic as the reimagined space conveys a sense of intimacy amid an open concept space.
Wood-framed polycarbonate partitions were installed at the bar at Print Works Bistro, the wood stained to match the bar.
Similar to the wood-framed polycarbonate panels installed at Green Valley Grill bar, the panels installed at Print Works Bistro were stained a lighter color to match its comparatively more contemporary-style bar. The panels are one of the elements that were used at all three Quaintance-Weaver restaurants in Greensboro. The panels’ wood frames were an afterthought as the trial-and-error process played out.
Clear plastic curtains suspended from the ceiling by cables and rods were installed in the bar seating area at Print Works Bistro.
Unlike Green Valley Grill, there are no circular booths in the bar area of Print Works Bistro. The Craft Guild, though, borrowed the clear curtain idea from its previous project, suspending straight rods from the ceiling and hanging the clear sheeting between tables and booths, allowing all of them to be seated. Tables in the center of the room were removed to maintain Covid social distancing practices. Although capacity was reduced in the space, other than the physical barriers there are no obvious indications changes were made to maintain compliance, such as empty tables with no chairs.
In the absence of conventions and other events, the ballroom at Proximity Hotel was converted to “Lobby Dining” to be used by Print Works Bistro for overflow seating.
Inside the ground floor level of Proximity Hotel, one level below the lobby and a brief walk from Print Works Bistro, is ballroom space that has gone unused during the ban on mass gatherings. That presented an opportunity for Quaintance-Weaver to provide overflow seating for Print Works, and the “Lobby Social Dining” concept was born. The space provides extra seating options during busy times when weather prohibits using restaurant’s the 74 outdoor seats.
“We don’t want to send people away for dinner if we don’t have to, and losing 74 seats outside kind of scared us with having reduced seating on the inside,” Martin said.
With the Lobby Social Dining available, Print Works can operate at 100% capacity.
Lucky 32 was the last of the three Quaintance-Weaver restaurants in Greensboro to re-open during Covid-19.
Because Lucky 32 was the last of Quaintance-Weaver’s three Greensboro restaurants to re-open amid Covid-19 restrictions, the location was the beneficiary of lessons learned by the company’s Craft Guild in the reimagining of Green Valley Grill and Print Works Bistro. Indoor dining resumed there Oct. 20.
Wood-framed polycarbonate panels separate groups of bar patrons at Lucky 32 in Greensboro.
A consistent feature in all three restaurants are the wood-framed polycarbonate panels stained to match the bar color at each of the locations.
“One of the great part about our restaurants is that you get a different experience at each, but it’s one that also results in different clientele,” Martin said. “We try to be consistent with our program but unique to each location.”
A table for large parties in the center of a dining room at Lucky 32 in Greensboro cannot be used during Covid-19 restrictions. Rather than remove it or the chairs, the table is set and the chairs roped off.
Decorative accessories are placed in on the top of booths at Lucky 32 to partially draw attention away from the plexiglass panels that separate booths in the dining area.
Despite the measures taken at Lucky 32, this table for large parties is unavailable for seating. Rather than tape an X across the table as some restaurants do, or remove the chairs and leave the table bare, the Craft Guild team dressed the table with accessories and stylishly draped a rope across the chairs.
The idea at Lucky 32 as well as Print Works Bistro and Green Valley Grill was to create a Covid-safe dining experience that doesn’t feel like one.
“When we came back, the goal was to keep the integrity of the restaurants so people could feel like there was this sliver of normalcy in that nothing changed and they could still go and enjoy the space, dine there, and kind of escape from the chaos of Covid,” Martin said.