WALLINGFORD — When the governor first started talking about a May 20 business reopening, Corner Cafe owner Melissa Moran started calling local officials.
She wanted to learn what would be allowed at her neighborhood bar and eatery, 321 Church St., and if local regulations might be relaxed to allow more opportunity. She finally got a temporary building permit Monday morning for a new outdoor dining area.
“Even if it’s slow, I’m excited because I can get up and come to my business and have something to do,” she said.
Later Monday, a tent went up outside the restaurant. Moran said it should fit about nine tables, spaced six feet apart.
Reopening has meant new expenses for Moran, including special tables and individual condiments.
“I think that if my customers know that we’re doing the best that we can, they’ll come back,” Moran said. “People want the opportunity to come back out in some way, even if it’s in a much diminished way.”
On Saturday, Corner Cafe will bring back its monthly corned beef special, offering pickup and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating will be open tentatively from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days per week, weather permitting.
Across Church Street (Route 68) at Westbrook Lobster, co-owner Michael Lariviere said they don’t really know what to expect, but are excited to have customers back.
“The staff’s excited. We’re just ready to get back to work,” he said.
The restaurant has a covered outdoor seating area, which sits about 30 to 40 people. Diners will have to make reservations and have a 90-minute limit.
In addition to strict guidelines set by the governor’s office, Lariviere said they will be offering “hands-free menus” and touchless payments. Guests can use a QR code on the table to access the menu online (paper copies will be available upon request). When it comes to payment, a similar process will allow customers to pay on their phones. Too soon?
Some restaurants are wary about the partial reopening.
“I have mixed emotions,” Gaetano’s Tavern on Main co-owner Debbie Pacileo said. “I don’t want to see a rise in this again and I’m afraid people aren’t going to follow the rules ...”
All the same, if people can stay safe, she’s excited to see customers outside and enjoying themselves. Gaetano’s is located off Simpson Court.
“I don’t know if people are going to be (excited) to come out or wary,” she said.
Gaetano’s has remained open for dinner takeout, but will open outdoor dining Wednesday with additional lunch hours. The restaurant has about six tables.
For now, Gaetano’s will try a schedule of around 11:30 a.m. to maybe 8 p.m.
At Archie Moore’s in Wallingford, general manager Paul Norton said everyone is concerned about reopening. The restaurant is located across the street from Simpson Court.
“As a company, we think that the country is opening a little sooner than it should be,” he said.
Norton said staff will be “increasing and intensifying” all cleaning and safety measures. He said they’ll be able to fit about six tables out front on the sidewalk, with permission from neighboring storefronts. ‘Little by little’
Green Olive Diner in Meriden plans to extend its outdoor patio with a tent to accommodate extra diners starting Wednesday as well. Owner Brian Balik said the diner will probably be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
Balik said takeout customers have asked if they could sit outside, so he feels confident they’ll return.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I’m sure they will come back ... I’m sure they will, but little by little.”
Cheshire Coffee will be re-opening after closing in early March.
The Cheshire and Waterbury locations will open for takeout starting Friday, co-owner Jason Wagoner said.
The coffee shop will have new safety precautions, including Plexiglas shields and sanitizing stations.
Wagoner said the outdoor seating at the Cheshire location will be in place, but customers are responsible for cleaning up after themselves.
“Our goal is just to make people feel like the world is back to normal,” Wagoner said.