By: Ryan Lessard, Manchester InkLink
MANCHESTER, NH – Now that New Hampshire restaurants are allowed to open half of their indoor seating to customers, businesses are working double-time to sanitize and space out their tables.
Meanwhile, other small restaurants see no rush in moving people inside, and a recent UNH Survey Center poll shows most people are still staying home.
Andy Day of Cask & Vine in Derry said he and co-owner Alana Wentworth have been working to get ready for the opening of indoor dining Wednesday afternoon, by doing an extra round of sanitizing (using house-made sanitizer at their next-door distillery), and moving about 25 bar stools, and some couches and big chairs into the rear lounge area to make room for spaced out tables.
“We did completely rearrange the dining room,” Day said.
Between three outdoor tables and seven larger indoor tables that seat up to six people, they have a total capacity of about 48, though Day said they won’t likely fill every table.
Dining is available by reservation only.
In the days ahead, they hope to also add seating for up to 12 more people in their adjacent taproom and on the sidewalk in front. Day said the Town Council also approved a plan Tuesday that would allow them to put tables in some street-side parking spaces with Jersey barriers. He expects that will be for beer drinkers only after they come back from a week off for July 4.
Day said they’re taking it one day at a time, not sure what business will be like since the summer is usually their slowest season. But travel restrictions may mean customers who are usually away on vacation may still be around.
The business is running a skeleton crew of Day and Wentworth, a bar manager and a chef, and a fifth person who will come in on weekends to help out. When the brewery opens, Day expects he and Wentworth will work the brewery side while the bar manager covers the front end of the restaurant.
At Shaskeen Irish Pub in Manchester, regular patrons reunited on Monday and Tuesday for the first time in months.
Co-owner Neal Brown said business was steady on Monday until they closed at 1 a.m. People have been lining up outside during regular business hours and served first come, first served.
“We’re trying to be as normal as we can be without infringing on any guidelines,” Brown said.
The front bar area can seat about 10 groups of six or less, and the rear bar can also fit 10 groups, but would need to ensure smaller groups so as not to exceed their current maximum capacity of 110.
So far, the folks at Cask & Vine at Shakseen don’t expect the addition of indoor seating to increase their expenses, but some larger companies are spending more in overhead to comply with the new regulations.
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