Spring has arrived and locals and visitors alike are looking for something to do. Whether it’s city streets or country roads, Lockport and the surrounding area have a lot to offer, but between seeing the sights – or even just visiting family and friends – everyone needs to eat.
The last few weeks have seen the lifting of pandemic-related regulations in the restaurant industry in addition to the relaxation of rules on masks. Curfews are lifted. Alcohol – without the purchase of food – is also legal, and some restaurants put their patios outside to attract hungry but cautious diners to their outdoor tables.
However, restaurant operators are hoping for more.
Ann Murphy has owned Restaurant Shamus for 31 years. She said curfews really didn’t mean anything to her business in particular, but more and more people were coming to dinner.
“For the most part people come in and say, ‘I’m vaccinated,’ and because they want to tell you that, it makes you feel like they’re more comfortable going out,” Murphy said. “We are definitely seeing customers that we haven’t seen in a long time, even though they have supported us throughout this year with take out orders.”
While that’s encouraging, Murphy said the biggest hurdle for smaller restaurants like in recent weeks has been capacity, and applying six feet of distance between tables just isn’t helping. As she expands her seating with an outdoor dining area, she said there still isn’t a lot of space or time for restaurants to make a profit for themselves or their employees.
âPeople come in for cocktails sometimes, so hopefully we can catch some of that crowd earlier today,â she said.
Murphy said she applied for various assistant programs to operate Shamus Restaurant.
âWe have applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and are looking at the restaurant relief program, but we’re very cautious about it at this time,â she said. âInitially we were closed and we made take out and we are slowly reopening, but we are still not open for as many hours as before. â¦ We had to fire some people, but most of the people who worked with us in the past are now back with us.
A little known fact about people living in the COVID-19 epidemic is that they love to play golf.
âBelieve it or not, golf numbers exploded last year because there wasn’t much to do. We really have had one of our best golfing seasons, âsaid Andrew McCullough, Cook, Brook Restaurant and Bar at Willowbrook Golf Course.
Sadly, it didn’t transfer to the restaurant, which McCullough said was a big blow to him and the rest of the staff, mostly due to the tournament cancellations. Despite this decrease in traffic, restaurant workers have been vigilant in applying precautions to stop the spread of the virus.
âLast year we did our part. We were strict with all guidelines, but we definitely got people flacked, and the waitresses had to deal with that. But this year it looks like things are moving in the right direction, âsaid McCullough. “In addition, many people who arrive are already vaccinated.”
As a seasonal business, it’s important for Brooks to open early – last year it only opened in June – and to stay open as long as possible. McCullough noted that the pandemic has not hit its part of the industry as hard as it is made up of seasonal workers, but fewer hours in the season make a big difference.
âFortunately, everyone stayed with us last year,â he said. âI know labor was hard to find, but everyone came back, with me and the kitchen, and in front of the house as well. It’s different here because we’re a seasonal restaurant. I know a lot of people in different restaurants in the area who are looking for help and can’t find anyone. “