Tasha Enix was winded.
Enix is a server at Henri's Market & Deli in Olive Hill. Friday was the first day since Gov. Andy Beshear shut down inside dining in March that she could carry plates full of fried green tomatoes and Gaber, Michael, Josie Lou and Wanda burgers.
“I'm not used to this; I'm outta shape,” Enix said. “It feels good. It's been two months.”
Eateries from South Shore to Sandy Hook and Cannonsburg to Ashland to West Liberty could finally welcome patrons indoors with caveats: limit capacity to 33% of normal occupancy; keeping customer groups to 10 or fewer; maintaining 6 feet of space between customers; and discontinuing self-serve salad bars and buffets;.
Employers must also ensure employees wear face masks for any interactions with customers, co-workers or while in aisles, hallways, loading docks, break rooms, bathrooms, entries and exits.
Todd Antrobus opened Henri's last November and the Drive-In last September. (He also owns two food trucks.) If he didn't suffer the most from no indoor dining, there cannot be too many who fared worse.
“Henri’s dropped 80% in sales … The Drive-In ran about 65-70% (less),” Antrobus said.
“The food trucks are what saved us.”
Friday's receipts at Henri's were as big a contrast from Thursday's as black and white squares on a chessboard.
“We just did in two hours … what we did all day (Thursday) in sales,” Antrobus said.
About 14 miles east of Olive Hill, Bayso's Sports Pub on South Hord Street in Grayson opened its indoor dining area. Owner Scott Menix said talk of seating capacity is “a touchy subject” because Grayson has no fire marshal, but he said patio seating increased from 20 to 75.
“We took out a couple tables, and we put signs on every other table saying 'you can't sit here',” Menix said.
Menix offers masks.
In Morehead, Root-A-Bakers Bakery and Cafe owner Lana Root did not reopen her dining area — seating capacity was just 30 before the closure, and she said cutting that to 10 is economically unfeasible.
Besides, the curbside traffic is higher than usual.
“We cannot do curbside and sit-down,” Root said. “We do much better with curbside at the moment … (Business) has increased. It's been amazing.”
One customer, Dr. Twana Hatton, did what she does most weekday afternoons.
Hatton, an osteopathic hospitalist at Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester, was in the parking lot. Her comestibles: a chicken salad wrap and two large unsweetened peach mango teas.
“It's pretty much what I get every day,” Hatton said.
Three local restaurants in Greenup County, Giovanni’s, Hot Diggity Dogs, and Tres Hermanos, have planned opening their dine-in areas on different days, though all have maintained a take-out service throughout the shutdown. Tres Hermanos Nunez will reopen Sunday in order to give them more time for another deep cleansing and other preparations. Manager Fernando Sanchez said that diners can expect all their menu favorites to be available when the dining room doors open.
“We are going to be open on Sunday, with about 30 people in the dining room,” Sanchez said. “All of the servers will be wearing masks and gloves, too, and we are using disposable menus so they will only be touched once. We are going to do everything we can to make sure everyone is safe.”
Sanchez said that there really is no way to know when things will completely return to normal, and he acknowledged the possibility that there may be restrictions in place into the next year and beyond. But he said that Tres Hermanos is focusing on everything they can do for their customers right now. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”
Giovanni’s had to shut down its dining area like so many other restaurants, and even limit the number of customers inside the front lobby who ordered ahead for pick-up. But during the dine-in ban, the popularity of its delivery increased. The dining area didn’t reopen on Friday, but they hope to have customers pulling up a seat at their tables by Tuesday.
“We’re going to eliminate every other booth to make sure we keep the proper distance between diners,” said Giovanni’s Richard Tackett. In the mean time, all delivery drivers are wearing protective gear to ensure the safety of the customers, a policy which will carry over.
“Some people still prefer to come into the lobby,” Tackett said. “But we are more than happy to bring it out to you if you feel more comfortable waiting in your car. And some people do. They call when they arrive, and we run their order out to them.”
Hot Diggity Dogs on U.S. 23 near State Route 2 offers hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, toasted subs, five different types of chicken, milkshakes and nearly every other food reminiscent of summer. It opened its doors for the first time in October 2019. Owner Pete Smith said that he barely got his feet under him before the pandemic forced him to close the dining area. But Smith endured the shutdown and opened that dining area on Friday to a limited capacity of 33%.
“That’s about 12 people in my establishment,” Smith said with good humor.
The shutdown was hard on everyone, Smith said, but he said that he appreciates the support he has received from not only Greenup County, but from the entire area and beyond.
“Greenup loves me, and I love Greenup,” Smith said. “I haven’t lost a single employee. We might have rearranged our hours some, and we might have to start staying open until 10 p.m. during the summer, but we have kept working.”
Smith said he has operated a restaurant professionally for 15 years and operated a car lot for 20 years. The key to a good business, he said, is customer service.
Seeing his patrons from 6 feet away is much better than not at all, he said.
Blazer’s Restaurant and Bakery on Carter Avenue in Ashland has offered curbside food for about three weeks.
Co-owners Irvin and Jessica Pereira said the bakery has done exceptionally well — strawberry pie is a favorite.
The restaurant will remain closed on Sundays, but it will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday. They reopened Blazer’s dining area on Friday. Some outdoor seating is also available — first come, first served.
“It’s been very stressful, mentally exhausting trying to figure out what we need to do; get employees taken care of, bills taken care of, everything,” Jessica Pereira said. Blazer’s has about 25 employees.
The Pereiras are providing disposable menus to all and following all the guidelines, including doubling up on hand sanitizer and cleaning the bathrooms between each use. Blazer’s is taking reservations in order to adhere to capacity restrictions.
“Distancing is really tough to carry on in a kitchen,” Irvin Pereira said. “It’s been a tough challenge for everyone to go through these uncertain times. I don’t think we can handle another (wave of coronavirus cases). I hope and pray we don’t see that.”
Ray Davis, of Wings, Etc., in Russell, said the restaurant’s curbside business has gone well over the last two months thanks to great community support.
Wings, Etc.’s 35 employees will be busy “making sure we’re on point” in sticking to social distancing as it reopened its doors Friday. Every employee has a temperature check when they clock in; and they must answer four questions to ensure they’re not sick.
The bar is open.
“If you’re together, you can sit side by side, but you’ll be 6 feet apart otherwise,” Davis said.
Davis said the Paycheck Protection Program has helped Wings, Etc., push through the pandemic, but he can’t wait to return to “normal.”
Wings, Etc., also has outdoor seating. It will open at 11 a.m. every day, closing at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. It will close up shop at 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Larry Pancake will provide live music today at 5 p.m.