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Since May 1, when Gov. Henry McMaster announced he was loosening restrictions on on-premise dining, South Carolina restaurant owners have grappled with how to best serve their patrons: Their decisions run the gamut from still-closed kitchens to fully opened dining rooms. But at least in the Charleston area, it appears black and white restaurateurs have on balance reached different conclusions about which course to take.

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Restaurants across South Carolina on Monday were permitted to reopen their indoor dining rooms, nearly two months after Gov. Henry McMaster closed them in hopes of containing the coronavirus. Yet, despite operating in the shadow of massive revenue losses, most restaurants in the Charleston area brushed off the chance to usher guests back inside, instead continuing to offer takeout or outdoor tables.

In the raging sea of uncertainty that restaurant owners now must navigate, few swells are as daunting as the looming question of whether employees will come back to work. According to a survey conducted this month by The James Beard Foundation, 16 percent of restaurateurs consider “rehiring staff” a bigger obstacle to reopening than luring back customers or coming up with cash to pay vendors.

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