Photos by Lynne Deliman
Back Burner Bar & Grill in Coraopolis has had a steady stream of business since reopening after the December lockdowns.
By Chadwick Dolgos
After the second wave of pandemic-related lockdowns expired Jan. 4, restaurant and bar owners in our readership area are not only grateful for the opportunity to restore dining options, but for loyal customers who supported them over the past year.
Staying in business and surviving the second lockdown required restaurant owners to make changes to their operations, including offering new dining options or temporarily closing until indoor dining could resume.
Seena Hunsinger, owner of the Back Burner Bar & Grill in Coraopolis, said her 4th Avenue business remained open for takeout during the first week of lockdown only.
“We didn’t open the weeks of Christmas or New Year’s due to them falling on Thursday and Friday,” she said, noting they are their two busiest days of the week. “Obviously they would not have been busy during major holidays.”
Since the lockdowns were lifted, Hunsinger reports business has been steadily busy.
“I think having a good reputation and being involved in a small town has definitely benefited us,” she said.
Restrictions over the holiday season prohibited indoor dining and limited outdoor dining to 50% capacity. Eateries that remained open during the three weeks were permitted to provide takeout, delivery, curbside pickup, and outdoor dining options.
Just one street over on 5th Avenue, Tootsie's Diner, who is celebrating its 6th Anniversary on Jan. 17, relied on takeout and curbside delivery during the lockdown. “It was too cold to offer outside dining,” said Coleen Baldwin, owner.
Baldwin explained that business has dropped about 75% since the beginning of the pandemic. “I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the food industry, but margins are small as it is.”
While Baldwin said Tootsie’s Diner has not returned back to business as usual in regards to generated revenue, with January normally being a slower month for the restaurant, she is very grateful for her customers.
“Although it’s a very difficult year, I learned a lot about humanity,” she said. “I have some of the best customers that we call friends now.”
Baldwin said she refused to be a casualty of the pandemic and is grateful for the overwhelming support she has received from her customers.
Not all restaurants and bars in our readership were able to remain open during the restricted period.
Owner of Mickey’s Place in Kennedy, Bob Crossland, explained that a choice was made to close the Pine Hollow Road cocktail and dining spot completely during the most recent lockdown.
“We tried takeout during the first lockdown and it simply did not work,'' said Crossland.
“We primarily use social media to advertise, but the response was very dismal.”
Open once again, Crossland indicates the business is doing well.
“I believe there is a lot of pent up demand for simply sitting down for a nice meal out,” he said, adding, “After a long day of shopping or working, who doesn’t want to enjoy some conversation over a prepared meal and a couple drinks?”
While business is picking up for Mickey’s Place, Crossland fears that lockdowns are not completely behind us.
“My biggest concern at this point is that the Governor's restaurant and bar paranoia will peak again, because of the upcoming Super Bowl.”
Crossland explained that there isn’t much they can do to prepare for another government lockdown but is concerned for the financial well-being and safety of his employees.