By BLAKE VICKERS
(This is the second part of a series written by Citizen Voice & Times intern Blake Vickers about the trials and tribulations our local restaurants faced during the Covid-19 shutdown.)
Steam Engine Pizza Pub’s patio has become a makeshift dining room. Customers are seen scattered about the metallic tables throughout the strip, as they are kept six feet apart. They don’t seem to mind the heat. According to Steam Engine’s General Manager Lauren Caroll, patio dining has been a success so far, though keeping diners separated can be difficult at times.
“We have outdoor seating on our sidewalk. We have seven tables that sit four each and one that sits eight. They’re available from the time we open to the time we close,” she said.
Before opening up the patio for diners, Steam Engine operated through carryout and delivery orders. Caroll says that shutting down the dining room when the shutdown began was difficult for the folks at Steam Engine for a variety of reasons, but that the local community was incredibly supportive.
“Honestly the biggest change was not being able to do dine-ins, so we could not have any customers inside of the restaurant, which is big for us. We usually stay pretty busy, and not being able to have anyone
inside the restaurant was a big change. Not being able to see our customers took a toll on everyone for sure,” she said. “We got a lot of support from the community. You would see a lot of people making posts about shopping local and eating local and all of that stuff. There was a really good turnout and we had a lot of help from the community at that time,” she said.
Steam Engine Pizza Pub has no plans to re-open it’s dining room in the near future.
As one of several popular drive-in restaurants in Estill, The Twin was in a better position to tackle a pandemic than other establishments. In fact, it didn’t have to make many changes at all.
“We didn’t really have to make a whole lot of changes. We’re wearing masks, and we’ve got signs asking people to stay spread out and not to let out any more people than necessary. The signs probably won’t be coming down for awhile,” said Manager Billie Eversole.
Global pandemics must drive up a craving for milk shakes. If anything, coronavirus seemed to be helpful for business at The Twin, as they were busier than usual.
“We’ve been a lot busier since the shutdown started. That’s certainly not a bad thing. We’ve had so much community support and we appreciate that. We’ve been getting all of our regulars plus people we haven’t seen. I’m glad we could be here to service them,” she said.
El Ranchito is one of two Mexican restaurants in Estill county. For the foreseeable future, it is operating through a curbside basis as it’s dining room is closed. Manager Julio Huerta spoke at length about some of the challenges El Ranchito has faced through the shutdown.
“We’re doing curbside services and we’re gonna keep it like that until everything starts back up. Our dining room is small and I don’t think we can do businesses in-doors the way things are now. More cases are still coming up and I would rather just keep everybody safe,” he said.
Huerta says that while there was a slow period when Covid-19 first made its entrance in the state, business eventually picked up and has been good since. Like the other restaurant managers interviewed, he is gracious towards the local community for their help during the crisis.
“The community has been very good. The first two or three days it was slow, but now we’re doing great. I’m so thankful for the community for all they have done for us,” he said.
Gratitude toward the local community is a common feeling amongst all of the restaurant staff and owners that have participated in this series. It’s a testament not just to how important an institution homegrown restaurants are to small communities, but to the hard work and care that these small businesses have put on display in times of crisis.