Schuylkill County restaurant customers happy for bar service, more capacity

Christine Lee, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·4 min read

Apr. 5—Customers and a bartender at Crimson House said they were happy to be able to have a drink at the restaurant Sunday, the day Gov. Tom Wolf's eased restrictions for restaurants and venues took effect.

They can resume bar service, serve alcohol to customers without a meal and the curfew for removing alcoholic beverages from tables has been lifted. Additionally, capacity for indoor dining is now at 75% for restaurants that self-certify with the state and 50% for those that haven't gone through the online certification process.

Only a few people took a seat at the bar when brunch started at the Pottsville restaurant, but all the seats were filled by noon. Conlan Budwash, of Pine Grove, and Dave Cantwell, of Minersville, were among the first bar patrons, both ordering Yuengling Flight beers.

"I'm enjoying it," Cantwell said, holding his beer. "I'm glad to be back."

Budwash said sitting at the bar was "nice" and doing so is a sign of better things ahead.

"That the world is getting back to normal," he said.

Co-owner John Challenger said before the restrictions loosened, many customers told the restaurant's bartenders they couldn't wait to sit back at the bar. He said being open at 75% capacity and having bar seating is "huge" for them.

"We're excited," he said at the restaurant Sunday morning.

Crimson House served brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it included a visit from the Easter Bunny., played by Eline Zwart, an exchange student from the Netherlands studying at Nativity BVM High School.

Marge Minchoff, of Pottsville, came to the restaurant with her friend, Edie Chromis, also of Pottsville. Minchoff only had wine Sunday, while her friend had a meal and said it "felt good" to have it.

Shara Stepen and her friend, Jon Pontician, both of Pottsville, were among those who came for brunch. She said the increased capacity "feels great." Pontician said while it is nice to be getting back to normal, people still have to be cautious.

Lead bartender Ben Jacobs was busy filling drink requests from behind the counter Sunday. He said having it open is "a weight lifted off my shoulders," adding the last time he served someone was just before St. Patrick's Day in 2020.

"I'm glad to be back to work," he said.

Takeout still popular

While capacity is increased and restrictions on serving alcohol have been relaxed, restaurants are still encouraged to offer outdoor dining, takeout and curbside pickup. Requirements such as wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing are still in effect.

For Chris Clauser, owner of Friedensburg Country Restaurant in Wayne Township, takeout orders are what many of his customers prefer more than a year into the pandemic. He said the eased restrictions don't have a noticeable effect on the business as the tables already have to be spaced out. Between Saturday and Sunday, the staff filled 50 takeout orders. The restaurant offered Easter dining from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Clauser said six people called about ordering takeout before 11 a.m.

Bob Madrigal, of Schuylkill Haven, was among those who picked up a takeout order Sunday afternoon. He said he has been getting takeout a lot during the pandemic as he isn't comfortable dining in.

"It's a way to support local businesses, plus it's good food," he said.

Meanwhile, Robert Beck, of Schuylkill Haven, enjoyed lunch after a church service with his son, Keith Beck, and daughter-in-law, Marge Beck, who were visiting him from Mechanicsburg.

Keith Beck said it was nice to see diners spaced out, adding that he was thankful to be able to do anything as a family. His father added that with more people receiving the coronavirus vaccine, people are becoming more comfortable with doing things.

Dining nearby was Red Lord, his wife, Joyce Lord, brother, David, and nephew, Jason Stamm, his wife, Ashley Stamm, and their children, Andi Stamm, 2 and Gage Stamm, 8, all of West West Terrace. Joyce Lord said it was nice that the restaurant allowed indoor dining.

"We couldn't do it last year," she said.

Contact the writer: clee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6028; @Cleespot on Twitter