Restaurants, bars take it inside
June 12, 2020
Appropriately, the first day folks could eat or drink inside their favorite Carlton County establishment was chilly, with intermittent showers.
"It feels nice to be back inside somewhere that's not your home," said Christian Madson, after enjoying a lunch break at Carlton's Streetcar Kitchen & Pub with coworkers Joe Deppa and Austin Carter. "It's really nice," Deppa added.
The process of slowly reopening the state after more than two months of a pandemic stay-at-home order continued this week. Following 10 days of outdoor dining and drinking only, Minnesota bars and restaurants could open for indoor dining and drinking Wednesday, June 10, but seating is capped at 50-percent occupancy inside. Tables must be spaced at least 6 feet apart and reservations are required. Servers must wear masks and customers are encouraged to wear them, at least until their food and drinks arrive. No more than four people are supposed to sit at a table, unless they are family members.
The relaxed mandates mean that Pedro's Grill and Cantina in Cloquet can offer more seating than the seven or eight outdoor tables along the sidewalk out front. According to their website, the restaurant can now seat up to about 120 people in three different sections.
Not every restaurant reopened this week. Gordy's Hi-Hat announced they would continue to serve all customers through their carhop system, refined over recent weeks. Likewise Dairy Queen will continue to be open for takeout and drive-thru only. But folks can choose to go inside at the Warming House, Trapper Pete's, and Family Tradition and a whole slew of other area restaurants.
For many places, things started slowly Wednesday. There were several tables at Sammy's, and about 10 occupied tables at Streetcar around 1 p.m.
"It's been like this all day, just people filtering in and out," said Streetcar owner Teresa Kavanaugh. "We were doing a good curbside service too, until we lost our internet."
The Streetcar's Teresa and Rob Kavanaugh had to think outside the box during the governor's mandated closure of all non-
essential businesses. They kept the restaurant open for curbside pickup and delivery, which meant almost all the kitchen staff were still working, while the Kavanaughs and three of their children ran the front of house.
"That's cheap labor," said Rob with a smile, noting that they basically had to "reinvent the business."
"There were a lot of logistical challenges with taking it to the curb," he said. "It meant a lot more organization, a lot more attention to detail."
Everyone chipped in when needed, Teresa said, describing how the kitchen staff also helped with running curbside orders out when things got too busy. Additionally, a couple of their kids' friends spent their quarantine helping out.
The customer support was also tremendous.
"People are great," she said. "It was overwhelming sometimes, people's generosity to [the Streetcar] and our other small businesses in the area. It's been challenging but also rewarding to see and feel the commitment from people."
The mandated closure also allowed the Kavanaughs to finish up their expansion into the building next door. The new dining room opened Wednesday, and features a massive fireplace (with decorative flames) and a few scattered tables that certainly meet social distancing requirements.
At the mandated 50 percent of maximum seating, Rob figures the restaurant can now hold close to 100 people, including the outdoor patio.
"So in a way, being closed was sort of a blessing," he said, gesturing at the nearly finished dining room on Monday.