‘We're Ready for It': Middletown Businesses Prepare for Busy Dining Season

After two pandemic years, customers in Middletown say they're more comfortable socializing and increasing their activity this spring and summer.

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As the weather warms up, it seems as though many Americans will resume the life they had before the pandemic; gathering with loved ones, traveling and dining out. 

Those in Connecticut can start to see these scenes around the state.

With temperatures in the 70’s on Thursday, one could easily find people enjoying themselves up and down Main Street in Middletown. Businesses spilling out onto the sidewalks with tables, chairs and umbrellas. 

"I've always enjoyed eating out and now I'm getting back into the groove after two years of trying to isolate,” said Wilma Hoffman of Newington.

Hoffman said she feels more comfortable going out in public and meeting with friends, especially after getting her second booster shot this week. Another customer gathered with a friend she hasn’t seen in two years.

"To come back out see people's full faces without masks, the connections, the smiles...it feels like life again,” said Marie Leavitt of Kensington.

Restaurant owners say they expect more foot traffic this season, including customers from out of state.

It's a point of meeting. People come from Boston and New York, they meet in the middle, so it's a “middle town."

"They come from the shoreline, West Hartford, Avon, they still meet right here in the middle,” said Sammy Bajrakearevic, owner of Luce Restaurant & Bar.

Bajrakearevic has owned his Italian-style restaurant for 17 years. During the pandemic, he tried to accommodate his guests as much as possible by offering alternative seating with an outdoor tent. This season, it will stay so when customers come in, they'll have the option to dine in, out or spread out.

Two Wesleyan University students were outside on Thursday, relaxing after finishing exams. Despite an interrupted college experience, they appreciate having a normal school year.

"Moa went home to Japan and worked for a year, I decided to go remote. I really haven't had that much time at Wesleyan except for my senior year, but having that all get taken away has made me so grateful for this past year,” said Sophie Anderson of Middletown.

Anderson, who graduates this month, said she may go out for a celebratory Italian dinner at Fiore II.

"The last few months, it's been a big, big jump and we are ready for it. We expect people to get out and feel comfortable,” said owner Ganija Cecunjanin.

Customers say they’re ready, too.

We're trying to feel extra special on this sunny day and looking forward to a lot more pleasant days,” said Leavitt.

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