ELLSWORTH — On a sunny but cold Monday afternoon downtown, Nan Miller sat on the bench outside popular Main Street burrito and wrap eatery 86 This!, waiting for the door to open and a server to slip out with her bagged lunch.
The restaurant remains closed to indoor seating, although the public may now enter to order, a change from the earlier COVID-19 regulations in the spring. And, despite the Stage 4 reopening roll-out that took effect Oct. 12 and allows restaurants to slightly increase their seating capacity, front house manager Chanelle Cyr said 86 This! has no plans to change its current model.
“We’re going to continue doing takeout [only],” she said, as a father-and-son duo decided on an order at the inside counter. Patrons are asked to wait outside after ordering or may call ahead or order online and then pick up from an inside table. Whichever way a patron chooses to order, the restaurant is keeping its indoor traffic to a minimum.
Miller had no issues with not being allowed to eat inside 86 This!
“Right now, I prefer not to,” she said.
A couple miles away on Route 1, new Thai restaurant Siam Sky is bustling, manager Kelly Blush said.
“Business has been great,” she said. “We’ve been doing phenomenal.”
Phenomenal to the point where she’s had to hire more staff. Blush said she and Siam Sky’s owners, who also operate the Blue Hill Siam Sky, haven’t discussed the impact of winter on business but she has no concerns at the moment.
“We have a very small staff, and no one’s gotten sick,” she said. Also, with tables already spaced out per the Stage 3 statewide mandate, Blush said they won’t be increasing seating to 50 percent capacity, as permitted under Stage 4, as there’s just not enough room to still maintain a safe physical distance between tables.
While inside seating is at capacity, “takeout is still pretty crazy,” Blush said, especially in the Blue Hill Siam Sky, where takeout outnumbers dine-in orders.
Even though customer traffic is strong, Flexit owner Paul Markosian has some concerns over the coming season, both for Flexit and for Finn’s, a few doors down on Main Street and run by Lorena Stearns, Markosian’s wife.
“August was like a tsunami into September and now we’re riding it,” Markosian said between bussing tables during a busy holiday lunchtime. “But we don’t know what the cold weather will bring. It’s been a year where you can’t look back [at past years] and make projections.”
Add to the mix a residential real estate market that “has exploded,” as Markosian described it, and predictions of winter business are even murkier.
“I think by November, we’ll start to get an inkling,” he said.