The countdown is on for Connecticut’s Phase Three reopening. In less than two weeks, restrictions will start to ease up. Restaurants, breweries, and many others have had to adapt and rethink how to operate during the pandemic.
Weather-wise, it’s been a pretty good summer for restaurants in terms of outdoor seating. And many cities and towns have helped to expand it by blocking off roads, like Pratt Street in Hartford. Soon enough, the cold weather will make outdoor dining impossible, which is why increasing the indoor capacity from 50% to 75% is such a big deal.
“It does help us because in another month or so you’re not going to be able to sit outside,” said Johnny Vaughan, owner of Vaughan’s Public House in Hartford.
It’s been six months since Vaughan’s Public House closed. On Friday, for the first time since March, people filled seats inside and outside, and just like everywhere else, things look a bit different. Plexiglass is up, sanitizer is everywhere, and tables are socially distanced. Vaughan says it felt like it was time to open back up and be part of the community again.
“We’re delighted. It was like Christmas Eve here this week. Everybody was so happy and anxious to get back to work,” said Vaughan.
But in just a matter of weeks, the weather will cool and outdoor seating will end. That’s why the expanded indoor capacity coming next month is a bit of good news for businesses that have had to weather a different storm.
“Eventually people are not going to want to be outside. So you can do a couple of things. You can put sides on the tents, but it looks like things are progressing. And we’re going to be able to bring people inside soon,” said Thomas Hooker Brewing Company President Curt Cameron.
At Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Bloomfield, the tents are up and the music is live. Inside, their kitchen is open and arrows point the way. Posted signs remind everyone of the safety protocols, and cleaning is a constant.
“I’ve been so happy with my staff. I see people leave a table, and it’s like a pit crew sanitizing and getting it ready for somebody else,” said Cameron.
With plenty of space, Cameron says the expanded capacity means they’ll add more socially-distanced tables.
It’s progress they’re happy to see as businesses across the state get ready to head indoors this winter.