Restaurants open their doors for indoor dining

Jun 23, 2020

For the first time in over three months, restaurants in Wareham are opening their doors to allow customers to eat inside. Business isn’t exactly as usual, however, as restaurants are following new safety guidelines to protect customers and employees from coronavirus. 

“It’s like starting over from scratch,” said Carl Bump, owner of Vel’s Restaurant on Cranberry Highway.

The business had been open for 55 years, but completely shut down when indoor dining was prohibited by Governor Charlie Baker on March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Phase 2 step 2 of Baker’s reopening plan started on Monday, June 22, allowing restaurants to reopen for indoor dining. 

On Tuesday, June 23, Bump and a few of his employees were busy cleaning the restaurant in preparation for their reopening on June 29. 

Once back in business, employees will wear masks, keep their distance from each other, and sanitize tables in between parties. 

Customers will wear masks before being seated at tables spaced at least six feet away from other guests. 

For kitchen manager James Powell, the most difficult adjustment to the “new era” is “making sure my employees are healthy.” 

To do that, he said he may have to limit the number of workers in the kitchen at one time to make sure they can maintain social distancing. 

Bump said the temporary closure obviously had negative impacts on his business, but it was preceded by his most successful winter ever which helped to soften the blow. 

With the mild winter, Bump said, his restaurant was “doing summertime business in January.” 

While many restaurants closed their doors completely, others were able to adapt to a takeout-only model during the early phases of the shutdown. 

For the Riverside Cafe on Main Street, the takeout orders were enough to keep their doors open, but generated only about 15% of their usual business, according to owner Julie Phillips. 

The cafe was able to reopen for indoor seating at the start of phase 2 step 2, but business was still much slower than usual on Tuesday. 

Riverside normally has a capacity of 44 customers, but it can now only host 12 people at a time because of social distancing guidelines. 

Chuck, an employee at Riverside, guessed that many people may still be wary of eating inside restaurants during the pandemic. 

That’s not the case for everyone though, as regular customers Lisa Molla and Stephanie Summers ate together inside the cafe on Tuesday.

They said that they used to eat there every Sunday, and continued to order takeout from Riverside during the shutdown. 

They said they enjoyed being able to dine in again, and with all of the precautions being taken, they felt safe returning to their go-to destination. 

In addition to social distancing, employees are wearing masks or even face shields. Order options have been written on a white board instead of shareable menus, and food is being served on disposable trays. 

Rather than having a server go back and forth from tables, customers are picking up their food at the counter. There is also plenty of hand sanitizer for customers and staff. 

In addition to indoor dining, the second step of phase 2 allows for “close contact businesses” like nail salons and tattoo parlors to open with precautions in place. 

Gyms can not reopen at full capacity, but personal training is now allowed.