Many area restaurant owners say they are ready to welcome dine-in customers
Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020
NATCHEZ — The Natchez Democrat reached out to many Miss-Lou restaurants to check on their statuses in the COVID-19 pandemic and to learn about their plans for reopening.
Cotton Alley Café
Cotton Alley Café had been closed since late march due to the COVID-19 pandemic but re-opened for to-go orders on Monday.
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Owner David Browning said the plan is to eventually get back to where the restaurant was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last night we were very busy with to-go orders,” Browning said. “We are all wearing masks and gloves.”
Browning said Cotton Alley Café plans to reopen for inside dining as soon as possible and that they had already removed some tables to allow for required social distancing.
“I’ve opened a gift shop in one corner,” Browning said of the space made available by removing some tables.
Natchez Coffee Co.
Natchez Coffee Co. never closed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, however, Natchez Coffee Co. has only been offering curb-side pick up and to-go orders.
Owner Sharon Brown said she is ready to reopen to dine-in service as soon as possible.
“I have been checked by the health department and cleared,” Brown said. “We have taken three tables out of dining room and the health department approved it.”
Brown said she plans to install a Plexiglass barrier for cashiers.
Pearl Street Pasta, 100 Main Spirits & Eatery and Magnolia Grill
John and Malan Parks own three prominent restaurants in Natchez — Pearl Street Pasta, 100 Main Spirits & Eatery and Magnolia Grill.
All of the restaurants closed soon after the pandemic started.
Malan Parks said the couple plans to reopen Pearl Street Pasta the last week of May or first week of June, initially offering just to-go orders and curbside pickup.
“We’ll do a few items from the other restaurants,” Malan said adding they will serve some dishes from the menus of 100 Main and Magnolia Grill at Pearl Street Pasta. “It will be curbside only. We want to take all the safety measures do everything right.”
Malan said she and John look forward to being able to reopen all three restaurants in the near future.
Biscuits and Blues
Peter Trosclair, owner of Biscuits and Blues in downtown Natchez, said he has taken the down time of the COVID-19 pandemic to completely sanitize and repaint the inside of his restaurant.
“We tried the to-go business,” Trosclair said of early days after the pandemic. “It just wasn’t enough to justify at the time.”
Trosclair said he hopes to be able to reopen by the first week of June, and he is hopeful by that time he can operate at full capacity.
“Fifty percent of my capacity is not enough to pay the light bill,” Trosclair said. “I only have 15 tables.”
Fat Mama’s Tamales
Fat Mama’s Tamales has been operating throughout the pandemic.
“It is getting better every week,” said Sara Bolyer, general manager. “Last Saturday was like a normal day for us.”
Bolyer pointed out that Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell granted a waiver to Fat Mama’s and a few other Natchez restaurants to allow them to offer patio dining as long as they followed COVID-19 safety protocols.
Bolyer said she plans to reopen to inside dining as soon as possible under the city’s new order.
“We were already getting everything in order,” Bolyer said. “We have hand sanitizer in certain areas and all the other things.”
Owner Mike Wagner said his restaurant on Silver Street at Under-the-Hill Natchez would reopen on Tuesday. The restaurant has been providing curbside service during the city’s shutdown and will continue to do so this week. Wagner said the restaurant would be closed Sunday and Monday to allow him to prepare for the reopening on Tuesday.
“I want to have everything ready. I don’t want to overpromise and under-deliver,” Wagner said.
Wagner said the restaurant plans to expand seating to the second floor of his building in order to increase seating given the guidelines that reduce seating to 50% of the restaurant’s capacity.
Chef and owner Regina Charboneau said she does not plan to open her restaurant on Main Street until July.
“We have been taking it one day at a time,” Charboneau said. “We are going to wait and see if volumes go up (for other businesses).”
Charboneau said given that she would have to reduce her seating to 50% and other factors, opening her restaurant might not be profitable at the moment.
“It is not like flipping on a switch,” Charboneau said. “We are looking to open around July 4, is my guess.”
Charboneau said that she does not plan to reopen King’s Tavern and its accompanying distillery.
Given her age and the amount of work required to rebuild another restaurant, Charboneau said that she had decided to close the restaurant on Jefferson Street.
“I don’t have it in me. I am too old to roll the dice,” Charboneau said. “I am shifting my whole focus to Regina’s Kitchen.”
Charboneau said the Tavern would be an ideal restaurant for a young chef who can devote the time and energy to make it a success.
Charboneau said many of the favorite items from King’s Tavern would be moved to Regina’s Kitchen on Main Street.
Charboneau said the rum distillery will also be closing and will be moving to New Orleans in the future. Charboneau said moving the distillery to Louisiana makes sense given that Mississippi’s fees for distilleries are more expensive than Louisiana.
Restaurant manager Christy Cupit said the Mexican restaurant in the Northshore Plaza on U.S. 61 North plans to reopen Monday for dine-in customers. Cupit said the restaurant’s dining area has been deep-cleaned and prepared for reopening and is waiting for the city’s go ahead to do so.
Manager Joseph Ramirez said the Mexican restaurant on U.S. 61 North is prepared to open its dining room for customers as soon as the city passes new guidelines that allow restaurants to do so. The restaurant has been offering curbside services and take-out orders during the city’s stay-at home order. The restaurant also offers outside dining under a tent. Staff members have been wearing masks and gloves.
Owner Brenda Floyd said that her restaurant on U.S. 61 South will reopen at 11 a.m. today.
Johnnie Mae’s Seafood and Grille, Vidalia, and Slick Rick’s, Natchez
With being shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rick Simons, the owner of Johnny Mae’s in Vidalia and Slick Rick’s in Natchez, said he is trying to get his restaurants cleaned and organized for when it is safe to open.
“With everything that’s going on, we’re making it easier for people to work with limited seating abilities for both restaurants,” Simons said. “We’re trying to make it where less people can do the same amount of work with the supply.”
At Slick Rick’s, Simons said he has been renovating the restaurant by having new walls and new equipment. The equipment would be easily taken apart for cleaning purposes.
Simons added he plans to have more hand sanitizers at both of his restaurants.
Brian Lees, owner of County Pie in Natchez and Roux 61 in Adams County, said he plans to open County Pie on Friday or Monday.
Lees had already reopened Roux 61 on Friday last week following the governor’s guidelines adopted last week by Adams County.
“The same precautions I’m taking at Roux 61,” Lees said of his plans for reopening County Pie. “I’m taking tables out and creating a six feet distance away from tables, deep sanitation, signage and keeping hand sanitizer available for customers. We’re just following all state and local safety regulations.”
Opening County Pie, Lees said, would depend on the number of workers he has available.
“That seems to be the hardest part is getting people who want to come back and work,” Lees said.
The Café in Vidalia has been providing outside dining, curbside service, take out and delivery only to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To keep everyone safe, Janice Sumrall, manger of the Café, said the waitresses at restaurants are wearing masks.
“They do not wear gloves because gloves are too dangerous because of cross contamination,” Sumrall said. “We have always kept our restaurant clean and disinfected and offer our customers a healthy safe place to eat.”
Due to the social distancing guidelines, Sumrall said The Café would not offer the buffet or salad bar until the danger is over.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that he will allow dine-in service at restaurants at 25% of capacity beginning Friday.
Sumrall said they the Café would offer home-cooked meals for eating inside beginning Friday, along with outside or curbside service.
In the future when restaurants are allowed to open, Sumrall said The Café is going to follow the recommendations of the Louisiana Health Department and recommendations set out by President Trump.
La Fiesta Grande Restaurante
Rickie Nunez, manager of La Fiesta Grande Restaurante, Natchez, said La Fiesta is continuing to do carry-outs and making changes to the restaurant.
“We’re changing the floors and doing a lot of cleaning,” Nunez said. “We’re doing adjustments here and there that the restaurant needs.”
With some restaurants in the Miss-Lou coming back, Nunez said he is waiting until the City of Natchez makes some guidelines to allow restaurants to open safely.
Ann Simons, owner of Planet Thailand in Natchez, said she plans to open on June 1.
“I just want to wait and see for a couple of weeks and see whether the COVID-19 cases are low or sky-high,” Ann Simons said. “I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Whenever it is safe for Planet Thailand to open up, Simons said she is considering to implement sever changes to the restaurant due to the coronavirus.
“I think what we’re going to make the menus smaller and have our hours from 11-7:30 p.m. We’re going to have tables 6 feet apart and setting up the hand sanitizer table outside the front door before people grab the doorknob. The other way is to have the door open so they can sanitize. I’m going to have shorter staffing and they’re going to be wearing masks and gloves.”
Scott Hawkins, Ben Hillyer and Patrick Murphy of The Natchez Democrat compiled this report.