Pandemic-driven changes on tap for Delaware restaurants
Several Delaware eateries say they plan some changes to keep the customers coming as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic enters the winter months.
Restoration Brew Worx, 25 N. Sandusky St., will install more than 30 outdoor seats in heated enclosures with air filtration systems, owner Frank Barickman said.
The filtration units are HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) medical-grade cleaners, which manufacturers say will remove airborne viruses, he said.
"The (Delaware General Health District) had requested that when I submitted my plans, we do that. We found some systems that are portable and will go in each (outdoor) hut and keep the airborne particles filtrated. ... Good stuff," Barickman said.
Two outdoor dining shelters will be placed in front of Restoration Brew Worx and four will be behind the restaurant, he said.
"We have a parking lot out there. We've submitted plans to the city to allow us to do that," he added.
"I'm hoping we have a pretty mellow winter and get to use them every week. ... Obviously, if it’s minus-10, it's probably not going to work,” Barickman said. “But if you look at it historically, we don't have that many days that cold. My calculations say if it’s 20 degrees outside, we should be able to use them."
Restoration has gone above and beyond requirements for indoor dining safety and plans even more precautions, he said.
"We found some fast sanitizers as I call them. ... Basically, instead of waiting five minutes, you wait one minute and the sanitizer's done its job," he said.
The Hamburger Inn, 16 N Sandusky St., plans some interior changes, general manager Tiffanie Cook said.
"As of right now, we're having dividers made so we don't have to put six feet in between (seating areas) and we'll be able to get more guests into our restaurant and keep them safe," she said.
Another addition will be handheld ultraviolet lights, which manufacturers say kill viruses on surfaces, she said.
They're used by sweeping them about an inch over surfaces, she said.
"We take every precaution very seriously. ... The safety of our community and employees is our No.1 concern. We don't want anybody to get sick," Cook said.
Another planned change will make the Hamburger Inn's takeout menu more appealing, she said.
"We're going to create more family-style meals for people, with family-sized portions," she said.
The restaurant is open to customers' suggestions on what the meals should include, Cook said.
More interior changes are planned at J. Gumbo's, 9 N. Sandusky St., according to owner Richard Upton.
"I have bought new furniture and barriers so we can redesign our indoor space and maximize it," he said.
"We spent money on an electrician to upgrade our electricity because I got a few hospital-grade air purifiers. ... We're trying to spread hospital-grade air purifiers around. And beyond doing just constant cleaning, we're just trying to make our indoor space as safe and as inviting as possible," he added.
At Fresh Start Cafe and Bakery, 24 N. Sandusky St., owner Todd Daughenbau said outdoor seating is likely.
"I actually am looking to install some radiant-heat options outside. I don't know how much a difference it will make ... but I think it could extend our patio season earlier in the year next year. It's an option I'm looking into."
If a worsening pandemic leads to another ban on indoor dining, "we would do everything we can to survive, Daughenbau said.
“But it would definitely be traumatic to us to have to go through that again. The first time we had the initial lockdown, our revenue fell like over 50% immediately and stayed there for several weeks. It's slowly come back a little bit better," he said.
A worrying element about any future lockdown would be "the fear that it creates, that people won't come out at all," he said.
"We live in an awesome community as far as being supportive," Upton said. If restaurants are again limited to carryout-only sales, "It's really going to depend on how the public reacts to it," he said.
"We definitely have a plan if we have to go back to curbside," Cook said. "We've been here since 1932 and were not going to let COVID close us down."