By: Tom Eastman, Conway Daily Sun
CONWAY -- Al fresco dining returned Monday to the valley.
“I was a little nervous going into it yesterday, but it went great,” said Terry O’Brien, general manager/ co-owner of the Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub in Glen.
Under Gov. Chris Sununu’s new “Stay at Home 2.0” guidelines, restaurants, which had been limited to takeout and delivery, may serve food under an outdoor dining plan that limits seating to diners who have made reservations. Tables must be 6 feet apart, and no more than six people are allowed at a table.
Like other local restaurants that have reopened under the state guidelines, the Red Parka is now featuring outdoor service on its patio.
They have added heaters as well as bug zappers, said O’Brien, who is a past president of the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association whose father, the late Dewey Mark, co-founded the popular local restaurant with her mother Jean Melczarek and co-partners.
On Monday, the day was sunny, making for a nice dining environment, she noted.
The Red Parka patio is open 4-8 p.m. daily by reservation, as well as for takeout curbside service.
Taking reservations as required was a new experience for O’Brien.
“I learned a few new things, as we never used to take reservations before except in the very beginning of the restaurant (in the early 1970s). It is definitely a learning process for us all, but we’re getting there,” she said.
Like fellow members of the Valley Originals, the Red Parka staff has been well-trained in sanitation practices. All are wearing masks, under the state guidelines, and in keeping with that protocol, diners are asked to wear masks entering and leaving the restaurant as well as when they go to the restrooms.
However, “one customer came in and sort of rolled his eyes at me when I asked him to put on a mask,” said O’Brien, noting that she provided one for him.
She said lingering was not a problem, a concern she had going into the night as most diners met their request to not stay too long, since there is limited seating.
With Memorial Day Weekend coming up, that is likely to be more of an issue.
Nora Mulkern Bean, manager of the Shannon Door Pub in Jackson, said her family-owned restaurant has been doing curbside takeout since the March 17 shutdown.
As late as last Thursday, she and her parents were on the fence about doing outdoor dining but ultimately decided to have 12 outdoor tables and two on the front porch.
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