Many local restaurants and bars are persevering in difficult times, with the hope of outlastng COVID-19
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Amid restrictions that have upended the business model of many restaurants and bars — and resulted in the painful losses of jobs for many more — places like the Gateway Grille in Canandaigua are doing what they can to survive as they enter a second weekend in this collective new way of doing business.
For the Gateway Grille, that has meant a reduction in hours — now from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. — and while he tried to keep a full-time server on during the first week, owner Jon Welch is down to him, his wife and cook.
Known as a breakfast stop, the restaurant normally has as many as 250 people on a Sunday morning; last Sunday, 35 customers were fed, Welch said.
“It hurts,” Welch said. “But we’ll get through. We’ll come out the other side. There are worse things that can happen.”
Although gathering at restaurants and bars is off limits in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, curbside service and filling takeout orders are allowed — and many are taking advantage of it, for survival and out of a sense of duty.
“We make food,” said Pierre Heroux, a co-founder of Simply Crepes in Canandaigua. “It’s our responsibility to be there and make food.”
At first, it was easy to get angry about the situation, Heroux said, and it was extremely emotional having to let staff go.
“This is much bigger than us,” Heroux said. “We’re doing our part in this battle. This is the new, real world we live in.”
From professional and homemade sandwich board signs alerting the hungry to takeout services to a crepe-eating contest outside Simply Crepes to highlight curbside services (more on that to come), to social media messaging, restaurants are pulling out all stops to bring in customers.
“It’s cool to see people being creative,” Heroux said.
At the Gateway Grille, which is offering delivery through Grubhub and DoorDash, Welch is offering family pack meals. They’re billed to feed six, but the amount of food is really enough to feed eight, Welch said.
And at the price, it works out to about $4.50 per individual meal.
“We’re also understanding that other people may have lost their jobs,” Welch said.
Canandaigua Mayor Bob Palumbo and his wife have been hitting restaurants for takeout — both for them and to send lunch to various city departments.
“We’re trying to rotate so we can hit them all,” Palumbo said.
The community support has been great throughout, whether providing gratuities well beyond what is expected and buying gift cards for use later on, according to Jarrett DeCann, owner of Mugsy’s Family Restaurant in East Bloomfield.
Owning a restaurant — Mugsy’s is in its second year of operation — requires sacrifices and taking risks. This has been a large hurdle but one he expects to get through, Decann said.
“It’s quite a journey, but we’re learning who’s there for us,” DeCann said. “During times like this we come together. And it’s a great feeling.”
The same sentiment goes for Welch.
“We’ll figure it out and get through this,” Welch said. “There are worse things that can happen. We’re blessed with a lot of good customers to help us weather the storm.”
All hail, the king of crepes
Many restaurants are making the best of a bad situation when it comes to COVID-19.
While closed for gatherings, they are allowed to offer takeout and curbside service. So that’s why last week, Simply Crepes co-founder Pierre Heroux was involved in a crepe-eating contest out front of the downtown Canandaigua restaurant.
Every year, Simply Crepes participates in Maple Madness, a celebration of locally produced maple syrup and other products. But like many events this month, this, too, was cancelled.
That didn’t stop Ben Beavers from challenging Heroux to a crepe-eating contest. If you don’t know him, Beavers won two of the contests last year at the Canandaigua and Pittsford restaurant locations.
Here’s how the contest worked: Each used a cell phone to call in a crepe order and had it delivered to their chairs — 8 feet apart for social distancing — in the marked off area out front of the restaurant for curbside service.
Then, they chowed down — 15 crepes in 15 minutes was their goal.
The event was meant to be a fun way to draw attention to the curbside and takeout services offered here — the city has restricted parking in front of the downtown locations of restaurants and bars and placed orange traffic cones to mark off areas for curbside service — but also at other restaurants in the city.
As wife and co-founder Karen Heroux said in her Facebook live coverage of the event: “We’re not going to let this coronavirus get us down.”
And it worked, as Facebook live coverage of the event reached over 900 people, Pierre Heroux said.
“I hate to tell you, the crepe man was defeated,” Heroux said.
Maple to go
Here’s a reminder that while the traditional Maple Weekend events at locations where maple producers work their magic have been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns, many are offering call-ahead and drive-up services.
Syrup A’ LaRue in Clifton Springs is having its Maple Drive-Thru this Saturday and Sunday.
Check out @SyrupALaRue on Facebook for details such as brands, ordering and shipping, and scheduling pickups if this weekend doesn't work. For other details, call or text at 315-879-7390.
Many maple farms have websites for customers to order products from and also are taking orders by phone and email. They include:
• Wohlschlegel's Naples Maple Farm, 8064 Coates Road. Call 585-775-7770 or visit https://www.fingerlakesbulkmaplesyrup.com/.
• Kettle Ridge Farm, 515 Log Cabin Road, Victor. Call 585-217-7108 or visit https://www.kettleridgefarm.com/.
• Schoff's Sugar Shack, 1064 Willis Hills Road, Victor. Call 585-924-3769 or visit http://schoffssugarshack.com/index.html.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canandaigua Farmers Market on Saturday has been cancelled. Market officials will evaluate the situation to decide whether to reopen for the next scheduled winter market on April 11.
The market, which is held in the Antis Street parking lot, also is scheduled for April 25 and May 9 and 23.