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Not all area restaurant owners are reopening dining rooms right away

By Kalen McCain
Posted 5/20/20

Diners are not rushing to fill tables after Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted restrictions limiting restaurants to providing only carryout and delivery orders since mid-March.

And not all restaurants have …

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Not all area restaurant owners are reopening dining rooms right away

Posted

Diners are not rushing to fill tables after Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted restrictions limiting restaurants to providing only carryout and delivery orders since mid-March.

And not all restaurants have reopened their dining rooms.

While some managers were eager to recover lost business under pandemic conditions, others were unwilling or unable to return so soon.

Jerry Murphy of Murphy’s Bar and Grill in Riverside said he was excited to reopen at half capacity, but he didn’t expect customers to come pouring in.

“I personally think it’s going to be a slow process,” Murphy said. “I think to-go orders are going to still be the rule, and I don’t foresee us being busy at all with the customers. I think that’s going to take time.”

Although he wanted to return to normalcy as soon as possible, Murphy said he and his staff needed extra time after Reynolds gave the go-ahead on Friday to reopen restaurant dining areas with new rules limiting the number of customers and the spacing of tables.

That process included moving all seating 6 feet apart, a change which has left only four seats at the bar, and those bar stools faced away from the bar.

Another Riverside restaurant, La Chiva Loka, elected to hold off on reopening but planned to reevaluate that decision in June, according to manager Karen Cabrera.

“Only being open 50%, honestly, I don’t know that it’s going to be beneficial because I do a lot of bar as well, and I can’t open my bar anyway,” Cabrera said. “I just feel a little more safe about holding off and seeing how things go, a lot of my customers agree with me.”

Cabrera cited concerns about new rules for dine-in operations which require that at least one staff member be allocated exclusively to sanitization work. The policy does not account for the given restaurant’s size, so small businesses with only a handful of menus or tables to clean throughout their shift would be paying for a staff member, which they have fewer of, to do less work than normal.

Kalona Brewing Company reopened its doors on the first day possible, resuming half-capacity dine-in at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 15. The Kalona restaurant had to remove its couches and lounge space to make room for socially distanced tables, now marked with tape on the ground to ensure compliance with state policies.

“We’re hoping that the new reservation system that we started, which, it’s doing actually pretty well, … allows us to plan, and that planning really helps give us a good game plan on how the day looks and how we can make sure that we’re going through all these steps and safety precautions,” said General Manager Jeremy Hassman.

The Brewing Company rehired its entire kitchen staff and most of its front-of-house staff. Hassman said that while many part-timers were unable to return, the restaurant has rehired “everybody that wants to be hired back.”

Around the corner on Fifth Street in Kalona, the Tuscan Moon Grill has been closed through the pandemic, selling only gift cards and bottles of wine.

Because their specialty in fine dining made carryout and delivery formats unappealing, the restaurant gave away its fresh food and ingredients after closing doors, emptying supplies for the duration of the closure.

Owners Warren and Paula Miller said they needed time to resupply before they could resume dine-in services, thus the 19-day gap between the state’s permitted partial reopening date and Tuscan Moon’s plan to return on June 3.

For Second Street Sweets in Wellman, dine-in permission has, much like the pandemic overall, changed very little about day-to-day operations. The store has continued its already carryout-based business without resuming dining room services or breakfast.

“Our dining room area is 13-by-20, so to keep walkways from people coming in to get carryout orders and have tables sitting in here, it would just be impossible,” owner Marti Seastrom said. “There’s only two of us here, it would create more work and headaches… I’m just going to leave things the way they are for now and see how things shake out.”

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