Fatherâ€™s Day was a special occasion for Rudy Roa Sunday, as his wife Cassandra and their four young children took him out to eat somewhere new in Bristol.
They chose Applewood Restaurant, tucking into a big booth to feast on steak, fried chicken, French fries and more.
â€śThis is our first time here,â€ť Cassandra said. â€śThe steak is amazing.â€ť
Seated more than six feet away in other booths and tables across the large restaurant were at least seven other parties, with more outside on the front patio.
â€śAs soon as we opened it was very busy and itâ€™s stayed busy,â€ť manager Miguel Hernandez said. â€śWe missed you guys, people have been telling us. Weâ€™re happy youâ€™re open again.â€ť
The Poke Works Mexican Grill next door hasnâ€™t been as fortunate.
â€śWe usually have a couple people sitting outside but nobody dining in yet,â€ť owner Tim Chen said after a family had just picked up a takeout order and exited the restaurant.
â€śPeople are still afraid,â€ť he added. â€śThey just order and take it home.â€ť
That was the case for many local eateries over the weekend â€“ nearly empty dining rooms despite having reopened to indoor dining June 17.
Following the state of Connecticutâ€™s lengthy list of new regulations as best he could, owner TJ Tomak reopened the New Britain Diner that very day.
â€śItâ€™s still slow but people are coming,â€ť Tomak said. â€śIâ€™m sure theyâ€™re still scared to come in and dine inside. Everything is safe. Everything is single-serve; we have a hand sanitizer station. Iâ€™m sure it will just take a little time.â€ť
Seated at a banquette at the rear of the diner was Chris Lamphiere, there celebrating Fatherâ€™s Day with his wife and one of the coupleâ€™s adult children.
â€śNow that things are starting to open itâ€™s nice weâ€™re actually able to take one of our children out and celebrate his day as well as mine,â€ť the New Britain resident pointed out.
Across the city inside Paradise Pizza Restaurant, a booth was blocking the entrance into the dining room and owner PK Patel was writing down a call-in order for pasta.
â€śWeâ€™re opening the dining room tomorrow,â€ť Patel said.
He and his wife have decided to serve lunch and dinner daily but breakfast only on weekends for the time being. Even with a capacity of 120, they donâ€™t plan on seating more than 40 people at any given time, just to be safe.
â€śI have a lot of older customers,â€ť he explained. â€śI donâ€™t expect them to feel comfortable coming in at this point.â€ť
When Kulwinder Singh purchased Forestvilleâ€™s San Gennaro Pizzeria in December 2019, he didnâ€™t expect the dining room to be virtually empty all spring.
â€śIâ€™ve lost a lot of money,â€ť Singh said Sunday, inserting a pie into the restaurantâ€™s wood-fired brick oven.
â€śWe just opened last week and have only had two tables.â€ť
Although takeout business has been enough to sustain nearby Max Pizza in Bristol, staff are also anxious to have customers return for supper.
â€śNot much; hardly anything at all,â€ť Niki Koutouvides said on how the dine-in service was going after five days open.
One of the restaurantâ€™s owners, sheâ€™s not hopeful that people will fill up the dining room anytime soon, despite the fact that tables are more than six feet apart, separate entrance and exits have been designated and staff are masked and prepared.
â€śItâ€™s only my opinion,â€ť Koutouvides said, â€śbut I think people are still afraid.â€ť
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.