“Going yellow” was a welcome relief for pubs and eateries, allowing them to seat customers outside with social distancing measures. “Going green” is even better, still with social distancing but allowing indoor, seated service at 50 percent occupancy.
As of Friday, all four counties in the Susquehanna Valley will be green, and they’re looking forward to it.
The Isle of Que Brewing Company, in Selinsgrove, reopened when Snyder County went green two weeks ago. Part-owner Michael Salter said things went “very well,” with most of their customers coming from as far west as Pittsburgh and Ohio and as far east as Philadelphia.
“They walked in the door and they were like, ‘I’m so happy to get out of my yellow county. It’s so wonderful seeing people,’” Salter said. “The majority came from way, way far away from here.”
While the Que Brew doesn’t serve food, they welcome deliveries or takeout from fellow downtown restaurants.
“Even places that don’t normally deliver will deliver here,” Salter said. “We have a good working relationship with local businesses.”
Still, most customers weren’t looking for food or even a lot of beverages.
“Honestly, people weren’t coming out to drink,” Salter said. “They were just coming out to socialize.”
Despite being a small venue, the Que Brew was able to reduce to the recommended 50 percent capacity by removing about 20 seats and moving tables for the six-foot distancing guideline. Employees behind the bar wore masks, and customers wore them upon entering but could remove them once seated. As far as sanitizing, Salter said they didn’t have to make many adjustments.
“Eighty percent of my day, I’m in sanitizer anyway,” he said, noting that restaurant and bar workers clean as they go throughout their shift.
It was “terrific” to see the locals that came out too.
“We did good,” Salter said. “Everybody stayed socially distanced. They were happy to be out and see other people.”
He also mentioned that he’s happy for neighboring counties going green tomorrow, noting that breweries tend to be more supportive and less competitive with each other. That tendency was demonstrated in a recent Facebook post Salter shared from Shy Bear Brewing, in Lewistown. With the help of their local police barracks, Shy Bear determined they were allowed to offer live music “as long as the variety and style of music is acoustic in nature and will not incite people to dance or congregate.”
Busy right off the bat
The Front Street Station, in Northumberland, hosted live music last weekend on their outside patio for the first time in months.
“It went fantastic,” said Jay Seidel, owner. “We were swamped all weekend, and it’s still going. We have five or six tables out there now (on Monday afternoon). Thank goodness.”
Starting yesterday and every other Wednesday, the Front Street Station will host Karaoke Night. The mic is positioned so people don’t have to touch it or bring their lips near it. Inside, the restaurant will place tables six feet apart, sanitize them between customers and continue with regular sanitizing practices. They’ve also switched to disposable, paper menus.
This weekend Front Street will have more live entertainment outside with Alan Combs II on Friday night and Frank Wicher and friends on Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m.
“If it rains, we’ll bring the entertainment into our big events area,” Seidel said. “We’re just going to roll with it.”
Watching the situation
Rob Antanitis, owner of Civil War Cider, in Lewisburg, said he may hold off on opening for a little while.
“I want to study the situation another week or two and decide if it’s worthwhile to open yet,” he said.
Reopening has added expenses
McGuigan’s Public House, in downtown Sunbury, opened outdoor seating last week, thanks in part to owner Laurie Johnson’s son and grandson making outdoor tables for her. Those were especially appreciated because the new restrictions call for disposable menus, tableware, condiments and cups — all added expenses to doing business in yellow or green zones.
“We’re using the same precautions for dining inside,” Johnson said. “We never did that before. We’re following the CDC guidelines.”
Even with the restrictions, she is happy to be moving into a green standard. Mel Rivers, from Bloomsburg, played classic rock last week at McGuigan’s. This week it will be guitarist Tim Burns on Friday night, and Earthbound Misfits at 6 p.m. Saturday night.
“I think it’s good that we’re going green,” Johnson said. “I’m glad I can open up. I hope people come out and support us or at least do the dine-out on our sidewalk.”
Heading back to normal
Spyglass Ridge Winery is still hoping to hold concerts later next month, and they’re putting off the grand opening of their Three Beards Brewing Company. But for now, owner Tom Webb is grateful for a step in the direction of normalcy.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I think it’s amazing.”
Bryson Kalcich, bartender and vineyard worker, noted that bartenders will wear masks.
“Hand sanitizer will be used regularly,” he said. “It’s also available for customers.”
Webb said Three Beards Brewing Company is shooting for a soft opening on the Fourth of July, with a limited menu and fewer employees. Along with hand sanitizer, he mentioned sterilizing the credit card swiping screen, cleaning the bar between customers and posting signs reminding guests to remain six feet apart.
“We’re taking all the precautions,” he said.
With eight acres, social distancing outside is relatively easy as long as people wear masks when entering the winery or brewery.
“We had a band (Nate Myers and the Aces) this past week, and nobody danced,” Webb said. “We did a pop-up party. People brought chairs and pop-ups. We social-distanced everyone by 30 feet. They loved it.”
This week, Trainwreck Survivors will perform at 2 p.m. The following weekend, Spyglass will host a free movie night. All events offer food trucks and an ice cream truck.
“I’m a big believer that, yes, we did save lives by shutting down,” Webb said. “As far as finally going green, I understand. If we don’t open up at this point, businesses would start to fail. And they are failing.”
Like other local businesses, he noticed a number of customers from red zones at his venues. One group from Bucks County stayed at the Isle of Que, in Selinsgrove, for the weekend.
“They called it Green Zone Tourism,” he said. “They had to get out of the red.”