BY CHRISTINE LEE
As the weather gets colder and the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the county, area eating establishments are adjusting their dining options.
While eating outdoors remains available, some restaurants are modifying their indoor spaces.
Joe Mattera, owner of the Brick House Grill on West Market Street in Orwigsburg, has had his patio open since early June and plans to keep it that way with the addition of three propane tower heaters and a natural wood chimenea. He said the patio is popular at the restaurant, which opened in July 2006.
“Now more than ever, I’ve seen more people sitting outside to enjoy a meal,” Mattera said. “Typically we don’t have people eating outside in November, but they still want to eat outside.”
He said a majority of patrons feel safe coming to the restaurant as staff makes sure it is clean and wears face masks. In addition to the patio, indoor dining is offered at half-capacity and takeout and delivery is available.
Blocks away on the square, the tables are still in front of DiMaio’s Mustard Seed Cafe and will remain there, weather-permitting, Leslie DiMaio said.
“Once the first snow hits, we’ll put them away,” she said.
DiMaio said, as the weather gets colder, they have been taking more orders for takeout and deliveries.
Similarly, SpringGate Winery will continue to operate outdoors at Black Rock Brewing Company on South Centre Street in Pottsville, with the Lunch Pail food truck there on weekends through November and December.
Black Rock co-owner Abby Weaver said extra tents and heating units have been put up.
“It’s similar to what Spring Gate does in Harrisburg,” she said. “It’s a good way to stay cozy.”
Patrons at the Dutch Kitchen on South Lehigh Avenue in Frackville were allowed to dine under a large white tent in its parking lot, but the cooler weather meant the canopy came down Oct. 29, co-owner Jennifer Levkulic said.
While the restaurant has been open to indoor diners since June, she said modifications have been made with more people now coming inside. Tables have been combined in the main dining room to allow for more spacing. For instance, a long table that sits between six and eight people can seat two to four people.
In addition, plexiglass dividers have been added between booths in the diner area and staff seats patrons at every other table throughout the restaurant.
Levkulic said she hasn’t had any issues with the seating arrangements during the week, but the busier weekends are “a little tough.”
“Overall, customers have been good with the accommodations,” she said.
While the tent might have come down, Levkulic said it was so well-received that she plans to do something outdoors next spring.
The tents outside Crimson House on North Centre Street in Pottsville have also started to come down this week.
But Hector Rodriquez, the restaurant’s executive chef and general manager, said they will go back up, weather-permitting through November and December, especially with members of tour groups at D.G. Yuengling & Son needing some place to eat. Several heaters were added to the tents.
“We’re planning to put them up this weekend as the weather is going to be nice,” he said, adding they were “received well” by customers since going up in September.
Rodriquez said indoor dining is offered at half-capacity in the restaurant and he plans to add additional dining space in the building next to the restaurant, which is being renovated, in the next few weeks.
The state allows restaurants to operate outdoor and indoor dining, as well as offer takeout and delivery. Those that choose to offer indoor dining can only do so at half-capacity, with alcohol sales closing by 10 p.m.
The state Liquor Control Board also is allowing licensing fees for next year to be waived, which was greeted positively by some owners.
Board members voted last week to forgive an estimated $27.7 million in license fees for businesses impacted by the pandemic. They include the filing, license, renewal and validation fees, as well as the renewal/validation surcharge, amusement-permit fee, Sunday-sales permit fee and extended-hours food fee.
Mattera said any efforts on the part of the board to make it easier on licensees is appreciated.
Rodriquez said any time he can save money, it helps the bottom line.
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