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Owner: 'I hope I'm doing the right thing'

Belfast restaurants begin reopening for takeout

By Kendra Caruso | May 05, 2020
Source: File photo The owner of Alexia's Pizza, on the corner of High and Main streets, made some modifications to his store in preparation for reopening for takeout this week.

Belfast — As the state begins to implement Gov. Mills' plan for reopening, restaurants in Belfast are slowly opening up for takeout orders. Delvino’s Grill and Pasta House had a line of people waiting 6 feet apart the first day it opened back up for orders to go.

Owner Tina DelSanto started offering takeout during the last week of April after being closed down for nearly two months. She said takeout has required her and her staff to learn new ways to serve the public. "It's a whole new world for us offering takeout,” she said.

The day the restaurant reopened, takeout orders were flying out the door faster than DelSanto and her staff were prepared for, she said, in an apparent surge of pent-up demand.

She said the public reception was positive and the community was excited to order food and regain a small sense of normalcy. She said her staff did a good job keeping up with the flood of orders and managing a new form of service.

“Staff was amazing,” she said. “people were really excited to go out and have food and a date night and take it home or to the ocean.”

Though she brought back two employees to work, she said she was not able to bring back her full staff. She has applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, but was late in submitting an application, so she has not received any word back about its status.

She said she does not think shifting to a takeout-only business model will help her recover lost revenue from being shut down, nor will she be able to make as much money as if she were open for business as usual.

“It’s about the money, but it’s not just about the money,” DelSanto said. “It’s about our community, too.”

A restaurant owner in western Maine made headlines recently by announcing he will open for dine-in customers, respecting 6-foot social distancing guidelines, against the governor’s order. His restaurant’s liquor license was pulled on his planned opening date of May 1, but on Monday he announced plans to reopen Tuesday, May 5, anyway.

Other restaurant owners around the state have shared feelings of frustration with the governor’s plan to reopen certain industries in phases over the course of the next three months.

Our Town Belfast Executive Director Zach Schmesser said he had not heard talk from any restaurant owners in the Belfast area about reopening against the governor’s order.“I think there’s just a certain frustration with COVID-19 and the urgency that goes with the unexpected,” he said. “But now that there’s a timetable, people can begin to plan around that.”

Alexia’s Pizza owner Ted Rakis said his restaurant closed March 19 and he was making minor renovations to accommodate social distancing with plans to reopen this week. Even though the pizzeria already had a takeout model, he said, it was too stressful to stay open when social distancing started.

He was accepted into the Paycheck Protection Program and said he hopes to receive his loan soon. He said he is opening up with a limited menu and does not expect to make as much money as he was earning a year ago.

He said he is trying to weigh the need to put his employees back to work and provide the community a service with the risk of spreading the virus.

“I’m just hoping I’m doing the right thing,” he said. “I want to help everyone, but I don’t want to further the epidemic. That’s the scary part of it.”

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