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Restaurants adapt to COVID challenges

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette From left counter clockwise: Paige and Christian Rishel, Dylan and Brooke Hamm, all of Jersey Shore look over their menues before ordering at Franco's Thursday. Franco's has added plexiglass partitions between tables plus one of the best air filtration systems available to protect their customers and staff from COVID.

Whether it’s sanitization, loss of revenue from fewer tables allowed or easing people’s minds to eat, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit restaurants hard.

As winter arrives, diners huddle and go inside.

Some restaurants are putting portable heating units on enclosed patio spaces.

That’s happening at Johnson’s Cafe in Montoursville and The Brickyard and Ale House on Pine Street.

The disease has zapped joy from some restauranteurs.

“We’re still seeing a significant number of guests, but the experience just isn’t the same,” said Gordie Snyder, owner of Johnson’s Cafe, at 334 Broad St. in Montoursville.

Mandatory limitations of 50 percent of the restaurant’s capacity for indoor dining, wearing masks, social distancing and general concerns of customers has changed the equation this year, he said.

“As hospitality workers we enjoy what we do,” Snyder said. “We enjoy making people happy. We enjoy making your free time more pleasant by providing not just food but a pleasant atmosphere and fun conversation.”

“We have been working so hard to keep the wheels on the bus,” said Janet Jackson, owner of Eat N’ Run Cafe on Commerce Park Drive. She added how she depends on loyal breakfast, lunch and dinner customers.

Fred Daniele, chef and owner of Franco’s Lounge, 12 W. Fourth St., added an advanced filtration system to capture germs and droplets.

Management at The Villa, a family-operated place at 2016 E. Third St., serving Italian-American and seafood cuisine, said the limitations on tables has hurt revenues, but the loyal customers are taking out more. The restaurant on The Golden Strip recently applied for and received $2,000 in the form of a coronavirus relief grant after it applied to the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, handling disbursement, the manager said.

Aerosol sanitizers, sanitizer stations and regular wipe down of tables and other surfaces keep customers at Scorz in the Liberty Arena at ease, said Jerry Clark, asset manager for The Liberty Group.

Costs have gone up for take-out items. “We’ve burned up two printers printing disposable menus and specials sheets,” Snyder said of the take-out issue. “Not really an expense you plan for.”

“We have had shortages in products, just like every type of business, due to interruptions in the supply chains. But, it hasn’t been too bad,” he said. “If you want to keep going you adapt and follow the rules,” Snyder said. “We’ve got an incredible staff and they have pivoted and helped us pivot at every turn,” he said. “They haven’t complained but they just get it done.”

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