Some of the area’s most beloved food and drink establishments have been working hard to provide outdoor dining options for June reopenings.
Beginning this Friday, June 5, restaurants and retail food service businesses located in “yellow” counties may provide dine-in services in outdoor eating areas, so long as they strictly adhere to the state’s COVID-19 guidance, Gov. Tom Wolf announced May 27.
Northampton County enters the yellow phase on Friday, after more than two months under a stay-at-home order issued because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s dining guidance for restaurants that are beginning to reopen mandates that indoor areas, including bars, must be closed to customers except for through traffic. Customers must also be seated at a table in order to be served.
In addition to outdoor dining only, there will be many changes to how restaurants may operate. Condiments will not be allowed on tables, and they can only be dispensed by servers upon the request of a customer. Self-service food and drink options such as buffets and drink stations will be prohibited. All menus will be single-use and disposable.
Despite a variety of changes to the way they can operate, Hellertown bars and restaurants are excited to serve patrons on-site again, and they are making the necessary modifications to satisfy the governor’s guidance.
Braveheart Highland Pub had a head start on making outdoor seating arrangements available. Andy Lee, owner of the pub, spoke about plans to construct a covered deck for use as an outdoor dining area in March when he joined Saucon Source for episode 15 of our No Rain Date podcast.
“The deck is almost totally complete and will be open for outdoor dining starting next Friday, June 5,” Lee said last week.
The finishing touches of staining the deck and getting electrical requirements taken care of were completed earlier this week. At maximum capacity the deck will be able to seat 45 people.
“It is a covered deck so we can use it regardless of the type of weather,” Lee said.
There will not be a bar, but there will be a bar rail throughout the covered deck, and there will be a TV.
Outdoor dining at the pub will be by reservation only, Braveheart announced in a Facebook post Wednesday. Reservations for the deck can be made beginning one week in advance of the desired date, while reservations for the pub’s tables out front may be made for the same day due to weather constraints.
Reservations can be made from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and the pub is limiting table time to a one-and-a-half hour period.
“We understand that you might not feel that is a lot of time, but until we are opened fully we will need to stick to this timeline,” the announcement reads.
Patrons are required to bring a mask for entering the building and using the bathroom.
The pub will have arrows and signs located throughout to help the flow of traffic and prevent patrons from accessing areas of the building where they are not permitted. Braveheart will also be providing sanitizing stations by the doors.
“Please be patient with us as this is new to everyone,” the announcement said. “We are doing our best to make sure your dining experience is safe.”
Lost Tavern Brewing in Hellertown is working on a variety of changes to accommodate outdoor service, which they plan on being able to offer by the end of June.
“We want to make sure that when we open up we do it in a safe manner, and that both our staff and our patrons feel comfortable,” said Kenny Rampolla, one of the brewery’s owners.
The brewery plans to close the parking lot to the side of their building to turn it into an outdoor seating area. Rampolla said they have ordered 10 tables and 40 chairs for use in that area.
The brewery is also planning on building an outdoor service area, which will serve as an additional point of service and will limit the distance the servers will have to travel. The plan is to have taps outside when available, Rampolla said.
For the brewery, adjusting to the changing restrictions means trying to take everything into account.
“There are so many little things that we’re starting to think of,” Rampolla said.
The weather in Hellertown is one thing they are beginning to make preparations for. Rampolla said they are looking into getting a tent to cover a portion of the outdoor seating area, to protect patrons from heat and pop-up storms.
The brewery will also be utilizing a doorman inside the building to direct traffic flow to and from the restroom. Foot pedals will be installed allowing patrons to open the door with their foot, to help keep restroom visits as touchless as possible.
Lost Tavern will also be utilizing disposable supplies upon reopening.
“We will be going to 100 percent single-use immediately,” Rampolla said.
Menus will be single use, and drinks will be served in disposable cups.
While the brewery staff prepares for big changes, some things will remain the same. Lost Tavern will continue to offer their drive-up window service on Hampton Avenue for those who are not quite ready to enjoy their offerings on-site.
Lost Tavern’s commitment to service will also remain unchanged.
“I think we’ve built a good service reputation here, and that’s something that we don’t want to sacrifice through this,” Rampolla said. “Hopefully people are understanding that this is a new game for us, and we’re doing everything for peoples’ safety.”
Although the staff at Lost Tavern is eager to assist in a safe way of getting back to normal, they are by no means looking to open before they feel they can safely serve their community.
“I’m personally not in any rush to get back to where we were until there is zero chance of someone getting sick,” Rampolla said. “We love our staff, patrons and community way too much.”
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Steel Club has also made preparations to begin offering outdoor dining beginning June 5, according to an announcement on their website.
“While our vast patio may be the biggest outdoor dining space in the Lehigh Valley, we anticipate an overwhelming member response for club dining after almost 12 weeks without it,” it said.
Like Braveheart, Steel Club will also be imposing an hour-and-a-half time limit for each reservation. The announcement also notes that chairs and tables will be spaced six feet apart, and indoor access will only be allowed for check-ins and restroom access.
Reservations will be required for outdoor dining, and they may be placed no longer than one week out. Reservations can only be placed by members in person, or over the phone by calling 610-838-7018. All reservations must be made with a Steel Club employee, as reservations left on voicemail will not be accommodated.
Steel Club is also requiring that all dining charges be placed on a member account, and will not be accepting cash or credit/debit card transactions.
View the full announcement for additional details, as well as the club’s dining hours of operation.
Friday is not only a big day for our area’s bars and restaurants.
Saucon Valley’s Class of 2020 will be celebrating its graduation Friday evening, and other graduating classes will be celebrating their graduations soon after. The reopening of local favorite restaurants provides the opportunity for families to celebrate their grad while also supporting local businesses.