Local pubs glad to see some restrictions lifted

Local pubs glad to see some restrictions lifted

Eileen Harvey, owner of Skeff’s in Cumberland and Lou’s in Lincoln, said she’s happy to be able to reopen the bar area at both pubs after certain pandemic restrictions were loosened last week. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod )

Local bars and restaurant owners have been struggling during the pandemic, adjusting to new restrictions while trying to stay afloat.

Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, the state announced it would lift some of those restrictions.

Bar areas had been roped off inside eateries for several weeks, and hours were limited before the state agreed to loosen the rules.

Beginning on Feb. 12., the previously closed bar areas were allowed to reopen to a maximum of four people, made up of up to two households per party. There must be a minimum of six feet of space, or three feet of space with barriers, between parties.

Eileen Harvey, who owns Lou’s Millhouse in Manville and Skeff’s Neighborhood Pub in Cumberland, said she’s “extremely happy” some of the restrictions on bar areas have been lifted.

“This will give my employees the opportunity to make up some lost wages, and our customers the opportunity to sit with each other again,” she said. “With bar seating, people like to come in and talk about their weeks and create some fellowship.”

Customers have been missing that sense of connection, she said.

In general terms, the new rules will allow Harvey to open up much more seating, especially at Skeff’s.

“While operating at 50 percent capacity with no bar seating and tables spaced out, we’re really limited. This really gives us the opportunity to start feeling normal again,” she said, adding that both eateries will “continue to do everything we have been doing in regards to safety, cleaning up after each guest and sanitizing constantly.”

With more vaccines becoming available, Harvey said overall things seem to be moving in the right direction.

“It’s the most vulnerable people we worry about. People will feel more comfortable going out to dinner if they know that grandma is vaccinated when they return home,” she said.

Harvey said she’s thankful for the opportunity to welcome a few more customers back in the meantime.

“There has been so much misinformation out there,” she said. “Many people actually thought bars were completely closed.”

Then, there were places that didn’t follow the rules.

“We’d have customers saying they’d gone different places and sat at a bar during the pause,” she said. “It’s really tough when people say, ‘I sat at a bar at X, Y and Z place.’ I’m not putting my employees at risk like that, and I’m not taking the chance at being fined. I can’t afford that.”

Bob Celio, general manager of The Lodge Pub & Eatery, said reopening the bar area will be a big help to the restaurant, at least in terms of customer satisfaction.

He described The Lodge as a family establishment where people are looking to catch a sports game but not likely to “swear at the TV when the Sox miss a pitch … it’s a more mature crowd that likes to come in and socialize and watch the game.”

“The clientele we attract here is a bit of an older crowd that enjoys socializing and sitting at the bar together,” he said. “Unfortunately, there were plenty of other establishments that kept their bars open. I’ve heard, ‘so and so allowed us to sit at the bar’ so many times.”

Reopening the bar area “has been the biggest help” in the loosening of restrictions so far, he said.

“I don’t want to say that business is up yet, but hopefully it will be. The customers are happier to see that bar open,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction.”