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Restaurant, bar owners ready for lifted restrictions

Nannette Rechel taps a beer for a customer late Thursday evening at the SilverThorn Tavern in Hughesville. The owners are very happy to be able to have capacity opened back up to 75% in their restaurant and to be able open back up their bar to drinks. "People want to come here for the atmosphere" co-owner Vince Grieco said, and that being limited in capacity both at the bar and the restaurant meant that the tavern "lost 60% of beverage sales and 25% of sales overall" because of Covid. They have regular customers that enjoying coming in to sit and talk "its good for the community, we have a lot of single customers that like to come in and eat alone and if the bar isn't open to seating they turn around and walk out because they don't feel comfortable sitting alone at a table". DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

A drink with dinner, sir or miss?

On Sunday, a broad easing of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and bars begins.

The limitations, with vaccination rollouts underway, may be in the rear mirror, several restaurant and tavern owners in the city and region said.

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered lifting some restrictions on restaurants and bars as cases of coronavirus decline.

In short, restaurants may resume bar service, alcohol will be allowed without the purchase of food and the curfew for removing alcoholic drinks from tables will be lifted. Indoor dining capacity shoots up to 75 percent for restaurants that self-certify they are meeting COVD-19 mitigation standards, while those that do not self-certify may increase indoor dining capacity to 50 percent. Mask-wearing and social distancing will still apply.

“It is about time,” said Ron Reid, head cook and assistant manager at Mulberry Street Cafe, 166 Mulberry St. “Look at Florida and how well they are doing.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reopened businesses much earlier, he said. Seating with capacity for 80, goes from 40 to 60, Reid said.

“It’s better and the bar service change will help tremendously,” he said.

“Any movement toward normalcy is good,” said Matthew Noviello, owner of Orlando’s in Muncy. “I will take 75 percent over being shut down any day of the week.”

The restaurant and bar have a cozy atmosphere, where people know each other oftentimes.

Noviello said it will be nice to have folks in they have not seen in a while and have a drink, draft beer or cocktail.

Nicholas Hawrylchak, owner of the Broken Bow Axe Brew House in Lock Haven, is optimistic but critical of the government’s lack of guidance over the past year.

“He (Wolf) wanted to say after a year of restrictions we are helping you out but once again with no guidance on how to properly mitigate that,” Hawrylchak said.

For a year the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board released some guidance but after the dates when the stages of reopening occurred, he said.

“It’s been difficult and a challenge to try to follow the guidance,” he said. “It’s frustrating because we are trying to do the right thing.”

Hawrylchak said some customers come in unmasked and that is not the policy. He said he is very optimistic to have staff members get vaccines but noted the societal split between those who have different beliefs in the mitigation and approaches to reduce spread of the virus.

The reopening of the bar service is a plus for Peter Herdic House Restaurant, 407 W. Fourth St., where Hannah Ramsauer, bartender, said she is excited to make cocktails for those gathering.

“People want to come here for the atmosphere,” Vince Grieco, co-owner of the Silver Thorn Tavern in Hughesville said, and that being limited in capacity both at the bar and the restaurant meant that the tavern “lost 60 percent of beverage sales and 25 percent of sales overall” because of COVID-19.

They have regular customers that enjoy coming in to sit and talk. “It’s good for the community, we have a lot of single customers that like to come in and eat alone and if the bar isn’t open to seating they turn around and walk out because they don’t feel comfortable sitting alone at a table,” Grieco said.

Don Crouse, owner of The Villa, 2016 E. Third St. in Loyalsock Township, said he felt the same way as many other restaurant owners, adding customers will still need to maintain six feet distance and wear masks until they are seated.

He noted the school districts are exploring three feet distance and said that is probably the next phase for the restaurant industry.

Tony Anastos, owner of Stella A’s, a restaurant in Lock Haven, said the easing of restrictions could result in a 25-percent increase in business, especially with the bar service and warmer weather enabling an outdoor patio to open and additional seating to be put outside.

While adhering to the protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the restaurant felt a wrench tighten on revenue during the height of the pandemic with take-out only, he said.

“It is nice to be able to go back to old normal with people going out and having a drink,” said Daniel Miller, general manager of Angus Inn, near Hughesville.

“It’s time to start moving back to more comfortable times and people can go out and live their lives,” Miller said.

A restaurant employee at the Twilight Diner, Loganton, said he was thrilled to hear about the 75-percent capacity for indoor dining.

“That will be a nice, big change,” he said, especially for a diner depending on a breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd.

“I know there are a few people who have not been in and we have a loyal crowd that comes here,” said Terrie James, bartender at Oak Grove Tavern, Avis. “I imagine we can stay open later because of the bar restrictions getting lifted.”

“We’re ready for the change,” said Heather Young of the Venture Inn, Jersey Shore.

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