Wiscasset eateries deal with pandemic

Tue, 03/24/2020 - 11:15am

    Global pandemic nor rain kept customers away from Treats curbside pickup Thursday afternoon, March 19. “We’ll definitely try it again next week,” said owner Stacy Linehan via Facebook post. Treats had posted an order form online and customers could pick up their order curbside during a specific window of time.

    On moving to takeout only, Linehan said, “I think it’s a good decision, it’s just a really hard one ... I just do want to ... thank everyone who has been so supportive of this tiny bakery in Midcoast Maine.”

    Likewise, The Cubbyhole Sports Pub owner Carla Chapman said during a phone interview that they were trying takeout and if it went well they might provide it Wednesdays and Fridays. “Our regulars were contacting us asking about takeout, and we’ve been in here making up everyone’s favorites.” Then on Sunday, the business posted on Facebook it was not going to be open for take out.

    Looking forward, Chapman noted in the phone interview that “We’re OK for the next month, but it’s our savings. We don’t want to use the programs until we have to; we know there are others out there who have more need.” There has been one bright spot. It has brought everyone closer together, which was needed.”  

    Despite the possible financial benefits of staying open, some businesses are staying completely closed. “To expect that they can safely do takeout with a virus going around,” Tony Bickford, owner of Little Village Bistro said, “I think it’s crazy.” Bickford said he and his staff had already talked about possibilities to stay open, such as reducing the number of tables and spacing them out, or doing takeout options. After President Trump declared a national emergency, they assumed things would change, but they were still serving customers from all over, including Boston and New Orleans.

    He said that when asked if they were concerned about the virus, the customers would respond, “we still have to live our lives.” This, coupled with the supports for small businesses announced by Gov. Janet Mills, sealed Bickford’s decision to close. “We were still inviting people into our restaurant and we can’t force them to (take all the precautions).” He feels strongly the only way takeout can be safe is to use the protocol hospitals do, which he said would be unrealistic for a restaurant. He’s also concerned with takeout that includes alcohol where IDs should be looked at, increasing the risk of exposure.

    Ultimately, Bickford said, he feels there is a lot of support from the government with unemployment benefits and the small business disaster relief loan. He said all of his crew is on unemployment and he’s applied for the relief loan. “I’d rather put myself in a bit of debt than risk getting other people sick.”

    Likewise, Meg Olcott, owner of Creamed Baking Company, made the tough decision to delay her April 1 opening and to halt orders. She said via email interview, “We hope to offer delivery for Easter orders. We will have chocolate bunnies, hot cross buns and a few other Easter treats available for preorder with delivery. Currently we are baking bread for the Alna food pantry and will be adding an additional loaf per a loaf or gift card preordered for when we reopen.” When asked what she thinks is the best course of action at this point, she replied, “for now I think the best thing to do is stay home and stay safe.”

    As for Water Street Kitchen & Bar, owner Ed Colburn said, “We are currently open every day (except for Wednesday) for takeout, curbside pick-up, and free delivery within five miles. After St Patrick’s Day,  it was evident that the right thing to do was to stop serving dine-in customers, so we decided to make the change that night, ironically a day before Janet Mills decided to shut down dine-in for the entire state.” He said they’ve reduced their staff to three from about 20 and “are working as sanitarily and quickly as possible to fulfill these takeout orders.” He also noted that the community support has been great and they’ve appreciated the support on social media.

    Mammy’s Bakery owner Jessica Deshiro said in an email interview that their  “new hours during this time will be Tuesday-Saturday 9a.m.-3 p.m. (during these hours we will deliver to the Wiscasset area free of charge) and delivery between 3-5pm in the Damariscotta-Waldoboro area.” The decision to move to takeout/delivery only was not easy. “I’m not going to lie, when I shut the lights off Monday for the last time as I was closing up indefinitely I became emotional with fear and uncertainty. I went home and held my kids closer that’s for sure. Locals can help support us ... by continuing to order from us like they had before. We have and will always remain to be focused on cleanliness and our customers’ health is top priority.”

    Sarah’s Café owner Sarah Heald said via email: "We did our best to stay open for our customers ... however this St. Paddies was heartbreaking, Sarah’s had to close Wednesday (March 18) for the safety of staff and our wonderful customers; at this time we are not offering take out as we are thoroughly cleaning our kitchen, painting and upgrading.”