As the new coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the U.S., with eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Delaware as of March 16, restaurants in the state are continuously being forced to adapt.
As of the morning of Monday, March 16, Delaware restaurants and bars had no restrictions on staying open and serving customers. But by the afternoon, Gov. John Carney announced he was limiting state restaurants, taverns and bars to take-out and delivery service only to help prevent spread of the coronavirus. The updated emergency declaration takes effect at 8 p.m.
“The biggest thing is the unknown,” said Scott Stein, co-owner of Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington, before the state restriction was enacted. “We’re just waiting. This is all new territory.”
Before the state restriction was announced, Stein said that they were putting a focus on the health of their workers and devoting more time and effort to offering delivery through GrubHub and curbside pickup for takeout (Editor’s Note: See update below). Grubhub announced last week that it is temporarily suspending collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants nationwide.
Some eateries like DiFebo’s will now be offering delivery services “for those unable to leave their homes” according to the restaurant’s website, in addition to taking extra health and safety precautions.
Stein added that he “feels confident that the staff is taking care of the restaurant without even having to tell them” by making sure to wash hands, wipe down surfaces and take employees’ temperature before each shift, and possibly sending them home no questions asked.
Mike Muzzin, director of southern dining operations for Big Fish Grill, said that they are taking a similar approach at their locations up and down the state. He says that “a lot of the stuff that people are doing are processes that should already be in place” but adds that they are putting extra effort into wiping down spots that people touch a lot, like door handles. (Editor’s Note: See update below)
Dogfish Head, the largest brewery in the state, have closed all four of their coastal Delaware locations since Friday, including the Milton Tasting Room and Kitchen, Rehoboth brewpub, Chesapeake and Maine and Dogfish Inn. Like many, the closure is for the health of both customers and employees, according to a post on their Twitter. Eateries like La Fia Bistro and Stoney’s Pub have also announced temporary closure.
Prior to the state restriction, both Stein and Muzzin said that they’d seen cancelations from large groups more than anything, but appreciate that their customers continue to support them in any way they can during this trying time.
“I’m proud of the local community in Wilmington,” Stein said. “We’re trying to do whatever little we can do and take a day-by-day approach.”
After Gov. Carney’s announcement, the Bardea team has since responded by temporarily closing Bardea Food & Drink and Pizzeria Bardea.
“This is a challenging situation for all of us and we are so grateful for your unwavering support and understanding during this time,” said the restaurant on Facebook. “As we navigate the road ahead, the citizens of Wilmington remain our top priority and we will continue to do all that we can to support this community.”
After the statewide restriction was announced, Delaware Business Times reported that Big Fish Restaurant Group will close seven of its 10 restaurants, with the other three—Big Fish Market in Rehoboth, Washington Street Ale House in Wilmington, and Mikimoto’s in Wilmington—offering takeout.