Some restaurant lobbies open,
others still just have take out
By Doug Lowe
Now days, while some area restaurants are once again seating and serving customers inside, others are open only for take-out.
Given all that variation, people hoping to dine-in at a restaurant they haven’t visited lately are advised to call ahead before driving some distance only to discover that the eatery can’t accommodate them.
In fact, those restaurants that served only sit-down and take-out clientele prior to the coronavirus shut-down have had have the hardest time surviving. Meanwhile, those with drive-thru and walk-up windows have retained enough of their previous business to more easily survive.
At least, that has been the experience of Troy Miller, who has owned T-Cee’s Dairy Freeze in Fairview since 1990. “Having our drive-thru window made all the difference,” Miller says. Having many customers already in the habit of driving thru helped him continue in business after March 18 when he could no longer serve sit-down customers.
According to Miller, “at first, there was a slight drop in our drive-thru business because many folks were just staying home.” But, he reports that soon after some initial decline, “things picked up and remained fairly consistent.” For a few weeks now, Miller’s staff has once again been serving customers seated inside. “But, to maintain the required social distancing, we had to mark off tables where folks could not sit,” he says.
Dirk’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Manti is one of the largest in the county. When sit-down dinging was halted state-wide in March, the restaurant had to close and lay off more than two dozen employees, with the intention of reopening again when restrictions were relaxed. They recently announced on social media that they were postponing their reopening due to current industry trends and health department regulations.
Shortly before the shutdown, Moroni’s popular sit-down Mexican restaurant, Juanita’s, got new management and a name change to Los Juan. The new owner, operator and head chef, David Juan, says, “it has been a real struggle” with the restaurant making as little as $40 some days. Wearing masks and gloves, Juan and his employees, are busy with “almost constant cleaning and sanitizing.” And, in the last few weeks’ business has “improved a little.”
Up in the Fountain Green general store, Shep’s Grille, run by Cheryl Shepherd, prepared only carry-out food from March 18 to May 15, when sit down dining was once again allowed. “But, there are so many rules and requirements that inside dining isn’t feasible with only six tables,” Shepherd explains. So, she has placed a couple tables outside for customers.
In Spring City, the popular Das Cafe, which does not have a drive-thru window, remained open for to-go orders during the virus-related shutdown. But, the café experienced a “definite drop in business” when customers could not come in to dine. Surprisingly, drive-thru windows are relatively scarce even among the many pizza places throughout the Gunnison and Sanpete valleys.
Roy’s Pizza and Pasta in Ephraim, for example, does not offer drive-thru service. But, many customers were already in the habit of ordering by phone for pick-up or delivery when the shutdown began, the loss of dine-in business was easier to bear.
At the south end of the county, in Gunnison, Shelle Christiansen, who has run Shelle’s Drive-In for 21 years, reports, “Our drive-up window has been busy, busy, busy. So busy, that it’s been crazy.” She is “amazed” at how willing most customers are to patiently wait in a long line of cars, “most without complaining.” Speaking of those restaurants that cannot serve customers in their cars, she says, “I hope they all survive. It has been challenging for us, but extra tough for them.”
One of the inside dining places referred to by Christiansen is the neighboring Golden Seas Chinese restaurant located a few blocks north on the west side of Main Street. A local fan of Chinese food, Cheree Kahrs, worried that the Golden Seas might never reopen because they closed their door completely, “for something like six weeks.” Happily, Kahrs says that the restaurant has begun filling take-out orders, but only during limited hours. Speaking of the Golden Seas, Christiansen points out, “they seemed busiest during the lunch buffet. So, losing that had to hurt.”
Indeed, most restaurants in both valleys were hurt by the new coronavirus shutdown, and now must contend with stepped-up public health regulations. But, despite such difficulties, area restaurants are continuing to welcome and serve customers in today’s “new normal.”