Meals are moving fast at Bear’s Smokehouse in New Haven and this year it’s all about take-out.
“It’s been absolutely through the roof,” said Jessica Tingley, who’s working on catering at the restaurant.
To-go orders have been huge, she said. This holiday season is double last year’s orders. And they had a New Year’s Eve special that was sold out early.
“So now, [customers are] just looking at our regular menu and just getting what they can,” said Tingley.
They’re ready for the expected earlier dinner rush, with plenty of room for BBQ and a side of social distance.
“Today’s a little damp but we do have heaters outside still," Tingley said.
That’s where Shawn and Abby Ducharme from Rhode Island were waiting to meet friends from New York. They specifically searched for a restaurant between the two states that had outdoor heated seating.
"Seeing someone face-to-face and laughing with them and sharing stories and creating memories is something that’s so important we can’t forget that, but we have to be safe at the same time,” said Shawn.
Restaurant safety also continues to be top of mind for New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond, who’s leading a COVID Task Force inspection team on New Year's Eve.
“I’m really proud of our city, we’ve come a long way,” said Bond. “A lot of establishments are following the sector rules.”
So far, the health department has issued 21 COVID-related final warnings and four infraction notices.
Like past inspections, the team will make unannounced checks for signage, social distance and masks on New Year’s Eve. They’ll also check on publicized New Year’s Eve events.
Bond said the establishments were all contacted to make sure they follow the COVID guidelines, which include no dancing for events promoting a DJ.
“We just want to proactively ensure the establishments are going to be following the sector rules,” said Bond.
That includes restaurants closing by 10 p.m., so make sure to get your orders in early.
“We stop taking takeout orders around nine just so that we give people that leeway to get here,” said Tingley. “And yeah, wrapped up at 9:30.”