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Champ’s Bar & Grill is located in the Forestbrook community and offers take out meals. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday issued an executive order lifting occupancy limits for all restaurants in South Carolina, effective immediately.

“We’re thrilled,” said Nick Vaugh, who helps run Crave Italian Oven & Bar in Myrtle Beach and Sol y Luna in Carolina Forest. “It’s great news for our restaurants and the industry overall. ... It's huge.”

Restaurants across the state have been operating at 50% capacity due to rules McMaster instituted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they can operate at 100% capacity.

“South Carolina is open for business,” the governor said in a statement. “Our state’s approach has been a measured, deliberate, and targeted one — aimed at keeping our economy open and our people safe.”

McMaster's “last call order” that bars the sale or consumption of alcohol in the state's restaurants after 11 p.m. is still in effect.

Additionally, other safety guidelines for South Carolina eateries, such as the mandatory use of face coverings for team members and customers, also remain in place.

Vaugh said Crave and Sol y Luna’s operators have had to adapt amid the coronavirus pandemic.

They began offering family meals to go, and that option — which can feed four and is aimed at being something not too pricey — proved to be a hit. The businesses will keep serving them going forward.

“That’s been a silver lining to what we’ve all endured,” Vaugh said.

It’s also made them understand how important it is to offer outdoor dining, which is available at both eateries.

“It’s a critical component to a restaurant,” he said.

The governor's office recommends that restaurants in the state also keep indoor and outdoor tables six feet apart and limit seating at a table to no more than eight guests, exclusive of family units or members of the same household.

These businesses are also encouraged to "minimize, modify, or discontinue" services that permit patrons to fill or refill their cups, Friday's news release said.

Each establishment is urged to make sure customers can maintain at least six feet of separation from other parties while waiting to be seated.

However, these steps are not mandatory.

Lately, Vaugh said, more folks have come out to Crave and Sol y Luna to dine in, and things are improving.

“It’s huge,” he said of the occupancy restrictions being lifted. “Being allowed to operate at 100% capacity is critical to our business [being] successful.”

“Today’s announcement is certainly welcome and is needed,” he added. “Every seat counts. Every seat matters.”

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