Tim Tower, June 16, 2020
Last time I wrote in this Journal was over two weeks ago. At that time we were getting ready for outside dining for the first time. We started a couple of days afterward with great results. And last weekend was our best weekend so far. We have a host stand in the patio where one of our employees with greet you and either put you on a list for a table or secure a table for you at the moment. We have table service. And, with Barnacle Billy's, Etc. cooking for us as well, we have fried food (clams, shrimp, scallops, chicken, etc.) and some of my favorite dishes, including salmon (in a scallion ginger sauce). All of this we have never done before at Barnacle Billy's (Original).
It will not be this way forever. Some of the things we introduced here for the first time will remain including rum punches at takeout (assuming the State keeps allowing us to do so) and our cocktail shrimp. And I'm sure those patrons who have never dined with us until this year won't realize that, eventually, things should go back to normal. I'm hoping they aren't disappointed with the change.
Yesterday, Governor Janet Mills set a firm date of Wednesday, June 17, 2020 for dine-in service in York County, our county. On Thursday we will be seating people inside as well as outside at Barnacle Billy's (Original). We are only allowed to have 50 individuals eating in our main dining room. That's the law. Until that changes our tables will remain six feet apart and occupancy will be limited to about forty percent of what we hold normally. But that's okay. This as long as no one gets sick and we can handle it. In my opinion we have been very organized in everything we have done. We have been very safety oriented (you can't be too safe). And we have been making sure that face coverings are worn, employees are washing hands frequently, sanitizing surfaces, wearing gloves and following the protocol that goes along with wearing gloves and keeping everyone as virus free as possible.
Along with this, Barnacle Billy's, Etc. will also be opening. Since our Governor didn't give us much notice as to when inside dining would happen (36 hours), we aren't ready to open there at the same time we are opening at Original. So we will “ease into” opening at Etc. We have much to do to get ready, not including getting all the product we need and changing the way we are using both restaurants now.
The hardest thing about this season so far is the demand of changing our operation with every new regulation. Consistency is the mother of good business. I have to say that our food had been consistently good throughout. However, the way we do business has changed, seemingly, every week. This makes it hard on patrons as to know what to expect. And it makes a lot of extra work for my staff and I. Through all this, our management team has been wonderful. I know I've said this before but I can't emphasize this enough. The have been at the forefront of new ideas, they have been very objective, they have been consistent in safety procedures and they have been open and supportive with me at every turn. One thing I insisted on when we started this spring was that they needed to be honest with me at every meeting, at every turn and every day. If they didn't like my decisions I wanted them to be vocal about it and explain why. They have done this. So there is no talking behind my back and we are working as a team. Making it through to next season will depend on all of us working together with open minds.
I should also mention that Governor Mills stated a week ago that residents of Vermont or New Hampshire do not have to quarantine in order to come into our state. Residents from other states have to prove that they were tested and do not have the virus in order to take part in our states services. All others are required to quarantine for 14 days before they can go out. There is no enforcement on any of this although they do have the means if you call attention to yourself and you haven't followed the rules. The result is that those who worry about the quarantine part are not visiting. We have less people here because of this. But as people become more comfortable, I think that more individuals will be visiting, regardless of the rules. My thoughts alone, of course.
If and when this happens, we will be ready for them with safety procedures in place and attentiveness to detail. I will not compromise safety in order to run a business. Above all, I want people to enjoy being here and stay safe enough to keep coming back for years to come. Be smart and be safe, everyone!