By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
(June 25, 2020) Berlin restaurateurs were excited to reopen indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, but some have experienced challenges with the new modifications over the last week and half.
DiFebo’s on North Main Street reopened for indoor dining on June 12 at 5 p.m. with an operating staff nearly half the size it usually has.
Owner Jeff Osias said it has been difficult getting employees to return to work, and manager Jacki Morton added that business has been much slower than normal. With the lower demand, DiFebo’s is offering a limited menu.
Since reopening for indoor service, DiFebo’s has taken preventive measures to reduce exposure to the coronavirus.
“We’re diligent about making people feel safe,” said Osias.
To meet CDC guidelines, all employees wear masks. In addition, tables are being sanitized and are spaced to comply with social distancing standards.
“[Diners] are obviously six to eight feet apart. Everybody is coming in with masks on,” Morton said. “It feels like normal except for those little changes.”
Also, the restaurant has switched to single-use paper menus, Osias said.
Morton added that outdoor dining remains a popular choice for diners, even with indoor service available.
According to its Facebook page, reservations are not required for indoor seating at the Berlin location but are required at the two Delaware locations.
DiFebo’s is continuing carryout and curbside service to accommodate the needs of its guests during the time of the coronavirus.
Similarly, Crush n Crab, located at the corner of Route 113 and South Main Street, opened for indoor dining on June 12.
The restaurant is gradually seeing an increase in diners as it returns to outdoor and indoor service.
“We want to say thank you to everyone that came in,” said Manager LaToya Szucs.
Currently, the restaurant is not taking reservations for indoor or outdoor dining.
“It is first come, first serve,” Szucs added.
Diners must wear masks until they are seated, and all tables are six feet apart.
According to a Facebook post from June 15, the restaurant is hiring servers and cooks as it functions with a limited staff.
Aside from not serving breakfast, the restaurant is offering a full menu and full bar.
Other downtown restaurants have been more fortunate with success amid the covid-19 crisis.
Fins Ale House and Raw Bar on North Main Street across from Worcester Youth & Family Counseling Services has been booming since reopening indoor dining with reservations on June 12 at 5 p.m.
“Business has been great,” said manager William Hotton. “Business has even been great since we opened the outdoors. I think a lot of people are anxious to come out and eat and to actually feel some normalcy. At the same time, we had to shut down temporarily this location, and we focused on our Delaware locations with the carryout, and I think it seems like a lot of people in the town missed us.”
Hotton said both diners and the staff were excited to rebuild a connection.
“We, as like a staff that work here, could not be happier with how this is going,” he added. “It’s actually amazing.”
In addition to indoor dining, Fins is continuing carryout, curbside and outdoor service.
“We just got ChowNow as well,” Hotton said. “So that will boost our carryout sales.”
Fins is offering full menu and full bar service, but the menu has been redone recently.
“We used to have a full lunch menu, a full dinner menu, a happy hour menu and specials. We’ve done away with that … at our location,” Hotton said. “We’re more of like a brewpub now. We’re still an oyster house, but we have consolidated down to one menu.”
After evaluating the restaurant’s sales, the management team removed some items from the menu.
“We brought it done to the core of what we are and what are customers really enjoy,” Hotton said.
After preliminary approval from the health department, Fins has spaced tables six feet apart from each other and any walkways.
Hotton said there have been other changes to minimize contact of exposure to the virus.
“We had to put arrows going in and out. We had to have little stations with hand sanitizer out in various places. Any of the tables that were porous wood, we had to use that thick brown paper … crab paper,” Hotton said. “You can clean a porous wood table but not as well because it has those deep crevices. So, we would just throw the paper away.”
Diners have to wear masks until seated to receive service while employees wear masks and gloves.
Like every summer, diners are attracted to the restaurant’s outdoor seating.
“Outdoor is always more popular including right now when the weather’s nice,” Hotton said. “I haven’t seen a change with the covid. I haven’t seen where people are like, ‘I don’t really want to sit in proximity or the inside of the building.’ I haven’t seen that at all, and that could just be that we’re making sure we’re keeping everything clean.”
Lately, crowds have been gathering for music at the venue on Sundays after the farmers market.
“It seems like people are going to the farmers market to spend money and time and look around Berlin and support them locally,” Hotton said. “Then, they come over to us and then they get carryout or they come in and eat and listen to the music.”
Likewise, live music on the front porch at Atlantic Hotel on Mondays and Fridays from about 5-9 p.m. has been popular, said Manager Laura Stearns.
The hotel and restaurant have added an outdoor bar, an orange crush bar, that has attracted visitors.
“We’re also fortunate because we have a lot of outdoor space, but we also have a lot of indoor space and this is because we have a ballroom, the Atlantic Ballroom, which normally we use for weddings and special events,” Stearns said. “Because we have no weddings or special events right now, we’re able to create a lot of space between the diners.”
Since returning to indoor dining, Stearns said the demand has been great.
In addition, people have been “exceptionally kind” with the limited staff.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Stearns said. “People have been excited to get out and get back to somewhat of a normal life, I think.”
Stearns added that with reopening the indoor service, the restaurant has taken every recommended precaution, including sanitizing the tables and chairs and requiring staff to wear masks and gloves when serving food.
Currently, Atlantic Hotel is accepting reservations and walk-ins.
“We are grateful for the support of our customers just because it was a difficult time for us, and we’re just so happy that everyone is supporting us now, so we can try to come out of this,” Stearns said.”
Berlin businesses update hours after coronavirus impact
Crush n Crab, 525 S. Main Street, is open every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, call 410-973-2350 or visit crushncrab.com.
DiFebo’s, 104 N. Main Street, is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, call 410-629-0550 or visit difebos.com.
Atlantic Hotel, 2. N. Main Street, is open every day at 11 a.m.
For more information, call 410-641-1234 or visit atlantichotel.com.
Fins Ale House and Raw Bar, 119 N. Main Street, is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 12-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12-9:30 p.m.
For more information, call
410-641-3000 or visit finsrawbar.com.