Columbia businesses weathering COVID-19 storm.

Chad Elsey has been through a gamut of emotions during seven months unlike any he's ever seen in his restaurant career.

"It probably comes in waves," said Elsey, part of the ownership group behind South Carolina's five Cantina 76 locations. "At first, it's probably a little bit of fear and shock, and then you get a little used to it and it becomes just kind of a challenge, and then probably it becomes frustrating, and I think now it's starting to become a way of life, unfortunately. But overall, I think everyone's moving forward with a positive attitude."

Elsey and other business owners up and down Columbia's Main Street, as well as surrounding districts, have balanced their bottom lines with concern for the health of employees and customers as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of daily retail life. After a statewide shutdown in March limited most restaurants to to-go only services, a gradual reopening that began late this spring has infused many establishments with some life and revenue, but things are far from back to normal.

"These are trying times, but people are we're getting through it," Matt Kennell, CEO of downtown development organization City Center Partnership, said. "People are resilient. People are going forward. People are not just burying their head in the I wouldn't say the sand, but the sidewalk, I guess. And they're being creative."

For many restaurants, that resiliency has included an emphasis on to-go offerings and outdoor dining as inside seating remains limited to 50% occupancy.

"We're doing much more business than just traditional dine-in," Eddie Wales, owner of Vista landmark Motor Supply Co. Bistro, said. "The takeout is something that a lot of customers still want. They don't want to come in and sit inside, so it's still available for them. We'll get a good handful of orders, especially at the beginning of each shift at night. It really helps. It's a small way that we've adjusted."

Some businesses are going beyond adjusting. Rosewood local favorite Peebles Wing Shack is expanding to another location on Lincoln Street in the Vista, while Hampton Street Vineyard has reopened under new ownership in Main Street's central business district.

"They're starting to get busier and busier," Abby Naas, executive director of The Vista Guild, said. "They're definitely not at the point where they were in February or at this time last year, but it's what you could expect with what's happening. We're just hoping that people continue to order their to-go and continue to come out and eat indoors or outdoors, just with their comfort level."

There have been some casualties. Downtown boutique gift shop Uptown Gifts has closed, as has a Pita Pit located in the Arcade building at Main and...

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