COUNTY — Franklin County restaurants were permitted to reopen for dine-in service on Monday, May 18, as long as they comply with the five-page industry checklist released by the state. While some restaurant owners are eagerly making adjustments to create a safe dining atmosphere, others are focusing on redesigning their business plan to expand curbside take-out and delivery services. 

At The Homestead Kitchen, Bar and Bakery on Broadway St. in Farmington, owner Laurie Danforth held a staff meeting to discuss the restaurant’s June 3 reopening. Employees sat six feet away from each other as they discussed COVID-19 guidelines in muffled voices behind masks.

Danforth will have to change the layout of the dining room and kitchen, streamline the menu and train staff to follow the state’s food industry sanitation guidelines.

The Homestead staff (from left to right) Natalie White, Isaiah Alexander and Heidi MacIsaac practice social distancing during a meeting to discuss the restaurant’s reopening on June 3. Andrea Swiedom/The Franklin Journal

“Some of the things we are voluntarily changing. One of the things we’re going to do is control traffic flow with two different doors,” Danforth said while pointing to a door in the bar area typically used by staff in the summer. “And call ahead, we are strongly recommending people call ahead for a table.”

Danforth will also be hiring additional staff to help maintain guidelines and prevent any risk of cross-contamination. There will be a dedicated busser who will clear tables so that servers never touch used plates, glassware or utensils. Danforth will also have two dishwashers working simultaneously, one dedicated to washing and one dedicated to putting away clean plates. 

Even with tables spaced out to meet the six-foot requirement, The Homestead will be able to seat 50 people at a time. That makes reopening a potentially lucrative option for Danforth. However, for smaller establishments such as Salt & Pepper and Sugar too in Wilton, continuing with take-out may be the most practical direction.

“We’re not sure when we’re going to open because it’s really hard with such a tiny dining room and we’re just planning that now, and we’re just now getting our staff back in and trained,” co-owner Mary Beane said in a phone interview.

Instead, Beane plans to expand their take-out options and target those coming from out of state who have camps in the area by offering themed, family-style boxes such as a brunch box or a picnic box. Customers will be able to pick-up their boxes curbside or receive them through a delivery service that Beane will be offering on certain days.

“It’s everything you need for people coming into the state that need to quarantine at their property, perhaps,” Bean said in a phone interview.

Owner Rocell Marcellino of Calzolaio Pasta Company in Wilton will continue offering a shortened version of the menu for take-out as well, which now includes beer, wine and cocktails. Although take-out has covered utility costs, Marcellino said it has not proved to be a lucrative compromise, but she has no plans to reopen for dining.

“I’m not comfortable doing that for my staff. There’s not a time that I could see in the near future to offer in-house dining,” Marcellino said in a phone interview.

Co-owner Melissa Doucette of Longfellows Restaurant in Kingfield opened her doors to customers on Wednesday, May 20, after reorganizing the layout of her dining room to meet the state issued guidelines.

“I’m just excited to get back into it, and I hope it all goes well so that we can continue on and kind of get back to normal,” Doucette said in a phone interview.

Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro in Rangeley is currently making changes to their dining room and anticipates offering dine-in service by early June. However, the restaurant wants to hold off on opening to ensure that they not only meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, but are also able to redesign the seating layout so that it is not an awkward dining experience. 

“We’re spacing off and measuring off and coming up with the best scenario to make an enjoyable experience for our customers” chef Jonathan Krach said.

Customers who opt to dine-in at restaurants will be required to provide their contact information as well as everyone else accompanying them. Servers will be required to wait on customers with masks and reservations will be limited to no more than eight people.

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