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Restaurants prepare for indoor dining

Labor Day weekend will bring some additional options for the restaurants in Bordentown City to offer to residents in the community.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Aug. 31 that restaurants can offer indoor dining to patrons at 25% capacity starting Sept. 4.

The news is hopefully the start to a safe introduction to indoor dining, said Downtown Bordentown Association (DBA) President C.J. Mugavero, who knows many of the restaurants in town are chomping at the bit to begin indoor dining.

Many are scrambling throughout the week to prepare to offer indoor dining services to patrons for the upcoming holiday weekend, Mugavero said.

Marcello’s Restaurant & Coal Fire Pizza owner Vincent Minerva said he is excited about the progress in lowering the transmission of COVID-19 to allow indoor dining and hopes it will lead to them being able to offer indoor dining at full capacity in the future.

“There are a lot of people that haven’t come out to eat because they don’t feel comfortable eating outside and some will now come out to eat,” Minerva said. “It should give us a boost.”

Marcello’s set up made the restaurant well equipped to offer outdoor dining services to patrons since June 15.

The restaurant had a retracted roof implemented about five years ago that allowed the whole restaurant to be considered outdoor dining. There are also 11 tables set up outside on the sidewalk for what would be considered regular outdoor dining.

Minerva has been pleased with what Marcello’s has been able to do with outdoor dining this summer and is grateful for the support the Bordentown community had provided the restaurant during the pandemic.

“Everybody has been great, accommodating and patient during all of this,” Minerva said. “People really enjoy sitting outside. The weather this summer has definitely helped us, too.”

Minerva foresees indoor dining at 25% capacity will allow the restaurant to have around 40 patrons inside at a time.

The restaurant will also revamp its outdoor seating layout to accommodate people for both indoor and outdoor dining.

Like Marcello’s, Old Town Pub will be able to serve around 40 people for indoor dining at a time, said owner Mike Schairbone.

Schairbone believes people are looking forward to being able to socialize a bit and eat back inside a restaurant.

The addition of indoor dining will give Schairbone the opportunity to hire around five more staff members to help with serving patrons in both indoor and outdoor dining areas.

When the coronavirus pandemic began over six months ago, Schairbone closed down the Old Town Pub for 13 weeks and opened back up in mid-May for takeout.

Schairbone said that he used the time when the restaurant was closed to purchase proper equipment and plan ideas for outdoor dining when they would be allowed to offer it to the public.

“We’re still a restaurant and we wanted to make people feel it was still a restaurant when they came to eat,” he said. “Since we started outdoor dining, people have supported what we have done and have enjoyed their time here.”

A big part of helping Schairbone be able to close for almost three full months and keep his restaurant afloat was the help of the Bordentown City Small Business Grant.

Small businesses and restaurants that qualified for the grant program received $5,163 to help them out during the pandemic.

Schairbone stated that the DBA and the Bordentown City Board of Commissioners have been awesome with helping out the small businesses in the downtown area during the pandemic and that the grant really helped him get through those rough times in the spring.

To bring more traction to the downtown area this summer to help the local businesses, the DBA and Bordentown City Mayor James Lynch collaborated to create an event called Restaurant Weekend.

The two-day festivities were held on a separate weekend in both July and August and saw many people from the Bordentown community come out to support their local restaurants and small businesses.

Both Schairbone and Minerva said the event brought in a lot of business to both their respective establishments with outdoor dining services being extended into the street.

The event also featured live entertainment each night and other activities that followed COVID-19 safety guidelines handed down by the state.

Minerva said the August edition was better than the first weekend in July with more people being aware of the festivities and enjoying the event.

“The town has done every such thing to help get through these rough times,” Schairbone said. “They’ve been awesome to us.”

Mugavero announced last week that there will be a third installment of Restaurant Weekend that will be held from Sept. 11-12.

Minerva assumes restaurants will do better during the two-day event next weekend with the addition of having indoor dining.

With restaurants now being able add indoor dining to the mix for the event, Mugavero sees the addition as another choice people will have when they attend the event and go out to eat.

“We’ll be able to offer the best of both worlds to some degree,” she said.

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