Gov. Ned Lamont’s decision to close restaurants statewide brought with it many unknowns for local eateries.
Owners scrambled to decide what was best for their business on Monday. For some that meant closing completely, while others were busy focusing on take out and delivery.
“It’s all conflicting and confusing right now,” said Marna Evilia, owner of Sans Souci in Meriden.
The mandate from Lamont closed all restaurants to dine-in customers but allows take-out and delivery. The closures are part of a growing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We closed our doors to protect ourselves and protect our community,” said Amy Fortin, owner of Center Street Luncheonette in Wallingford, who closed ahead of the mandate. “We’re gonna reopen when the rest of the world reopens.”
Fortin is confident her customers will return. Until then, she’s prepared with some savings and excited for a forced break.
“I’m gonna take this time and connect with my family and honestly to take a break,” she said. “I’m trusting that things will get better quickly.”
Not all owners were as positive.
“It’s a huge hit because our bar and our full service dining is what we pride ourselves on,” said Maria Riopel, manager at Laskara Restaurant in Wallingford.
Over the weekend the restaurant started offering family-style meals, in addition to their full menu, for curbside pickup. Today through Thursday she and the restaurant’s owner will be delivering, providing the service for as long as possible.
Delivery is now available at Flair and Mix Fine Cakes & Pastries in Southington. Servers are willing to become delivery drivers as needed, said co-owner Jose Delgado.
“The most important thing is everyone’s safety,” Delgado said.
The staff at Dad’s Restaurant in Wallingford still plans to put out St. Patrick’s Day dinners and sandwiches for delivery and take-out.
In a live-video on Facebook Monday just hours after Lamont’s announcement, owner Krissy Barton said she’ll send out more than 35 corned beef and cabbage dinners and more than two dozen sandwiches.
Due to the situation, she’s offering delivery with no minimum purchase. She said they’re happy to do curbside pickup for those worried about going inside, as long as customers call ahead and pay with a credit card.
She also plans to keep existing staff busy with deliveries.
“We’re gonna get through this thing,” she reassured customers.
Kinsmen Brewing in Southington is offering its beer for curb-side pickup, in cans or growlers.
Operations manager Bob Bartholomew said for the sake of cleanliness, they will not fill customer’s personal growlers. The brewery is also working to get its beer to local package stores.
He said the brewers aren’t slowing production down yet, since they’re usually producing for months out and don’t know how long this will last.
“We just really need to shift gears, perhaps change some of the styles we had planned on brewing and just work some really long days to be able to get packaged product out into the world,” he said.
The brewery had to cancel several large events over the weekend, including a St. Patrick’s Day gathering, which normally brought in hundreds of customers.
In Meriden, Evilia decided to close Sans Souci for the time being, as setting up take-out and delivery would end up being too costly and complicated for their establishment.
However, the restaurant will still serve corned beef and cabbage dinners to-go today for St. Patrick’s Day. After that, the restaurant will close until the ban is lifted.
She’s worried for her employees and wonders how long it will take people to feel comfortable eating out again.
“It’s a scary, scary thing,” she said.
The city of Meriden said Monday that it can provide assistance to local business owners who have questions about the pandemic.
The Small Business Administration website has outlined programs of assistance and recommended strategies for employers to use during the COVID-19 threat, the city said in a press release. Businesses facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic are asked to reach out to a local SBA office.
“We understand that local businesses are an economic driver in Meriden, and any temporary closure will be a financial and community disrupter,” said Joseph Feest, the city’s director of economic development, in a press release. “However, our top priority is maintaining public health and safety of all Meriden residents and therefore, we would like all Meriden business owners to know all available resources if a need for assistance arises.”
Patrons can support their favorite restaurants and bars by ordering gift cards now, to use when restaurants can reopen.