VALPARAISO — Paul and Amy Davies had plenty of reasons to celebrate Tuesday at Lincoln Flats restaurant. It was their second anniversary, she’s six months pregnant and the restaurant reopened its outdoor and indoor dining areas.
They spent their anniversary dinner people watching from their table on the corner of Napoleon and Lincolnway.
”I think we’ve seen probably four or five people we know driving by,” Paul Davies said.
Some enthusiastic drivers honked at the customers outside the restaurant for the first time in what seems like forever to some people.
“It’s a different world than we were two months ago,” head chef Aaron Kujawa said.
Sanitation is always important in the restaurant business, even when there isn’t a pandemic.
“That’s the easiest way to get somebody sick is by not sanitizing everything,” Kujawa said.
In light of the pandemic, though, some additional steps have been taken to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.
Enough tables have been taken out to reduce restaurant capacity by half and foster social distancing. Hand sanitizer has been added to the entryway. Doors were modified to reduce the need to place hands on surfaces when entering the restaurant or using the restroom.
A powerful disinfectant is used on each surface that might be touched by a customer or staff member, followed by a spray disinfectant for extra safety.
“It’s our first day, so everything is brand new and untested,” said Mark Kolar, front-of-the-house manager. But things were going well, with customers excited to be there, he said.
Bartender Sarah Budgin said she was a bit rusty for the first few drinks but was quickly up to speed.
During the time the restaurant’s dining areas were shut down under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s lockdown order, the restaurant kept 95 percent of its staff, Kujawa said. Lincoln Flats continued to offer meals for pickup and delivery.
“There’s some days you could shoot a cannon through here, and there’s some days it was crazy busy,” Kujawa said.
“You take care of your people, they’re going to take care of you,” Kujawa said. “We’re a family here. The more you work together, the smoother it runs.”
Customers Lamon and Helena Sanders were glad to be back downtown for food prepared by someone else. Their home’s kitchen was remodeled five or six months ago Lamon Sanders said.
“We really got to break it in,” he said.