Verona’s restaurants want you to know that they are open for business and they are working together to safely serve anyone who wants to enjoy a meal out or take a meal home. John MacEvoy, the owner of the Verona Inn, rallied restaurant owners here together two weeks ago, and they’ve been meeting, online and over text messaging, to talk about how best to serve their customers during the coronavirus outbreak.
As a result of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, New Jersey has recommended the cancellation of gatherings of more than 250 people. Verona’s schools are switching to remote learning and have scrapped spring sports for the time being. Town Hall is limiting access and some of our houses of worship have altered their services, all to put safety first.
Verona’s restaurant owners want the public to know that safety is always first for them, even when there is not a public health emergency. Every establishment is required to have one senior person with ServSafe certification, a food and beverage safety program run by the National Restaurant Association. They clean their kitchens and public spaces regularly, and are doing more of that now. And they pay attention to health. “If any employee is sick, we have always told them to stay home and seek medical attention if necessary,” says Michael Duarte, an owner of Ariane Kitchen & Bar.
Now, they are doing more. Lakeside Deli‘s counter staff, which always wore gloves to prepare food, are now changing those gloves more frequently throughout the day. Lakeside has also eliminated its self-serve coffee and replaced table-top condiment bottles with single-serve packets. The National Restaurant Association, which has been advising its members on how to deal with the public health emergency, noted that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence now that COVID-19 is being transmitted through food. While New York has mandated that restaurants reduce their capacity during the outbreak, there is no similar rule in New Jersey.
There are no known cases of COVID-19 in Verona now, although there are five presumptive positive cases in Essex County. And that has led the restaurant owners to make one request of the public: If you don’t feel well, or suspect you might have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus, please don’t dine in.
To make sure that that doesn’t mean that patrons will have to give up on good food, many Verona restaurants are now offering curbside pickups. Jim Hill and Jack O’Neil, the co-owners of Lakeside and Eight Hills Caterers, sent an email to their customers that they can pull up next to the deli on Park Place and call in, and the eatery will bring the food out. Verona Inn and Avenue Bistro now have this option too, and MacEvoy’s group of restauranteurs is encouraging Verona eaters to call their favorite restaurant and ask whether this is an option because the restaurants are evolving as the virus unfolds.