Business is picking up at Zembies Sports Tavern in Harrisburg.
Almost a week since Pennsylvania eased COVID-19 restrictions on the hotel industry, Angelo Karagiannis said more people have visited his bar on North Second Street, especially at night.
It's a trend that he said is likely to continue into Harrisburg's Restaurant Row as well as suburban establishments this weekend. After all, it's the first full weekend that the new restrictions apply, the most relaxed rules in over a year.
"I think the decks will be busy and I think the nightlife will be busy because people are already showing that they want to get out from midnight to 2am," Karagiannis said.
According to the new rules, restaurants can resume their seats in the bar, alcohol service without buying a meal and alcohol sales can continue until 2 a.m. (previously the last alcohol call was suspended at 11 p.m.). These self-certifying facilities can increase the number of indoor meals from 50% to 75%.
Social distancing, mask use, and hygiene practices continue to apply.
The owners are optimistic that in the coming weeks more guests will return to bar stools and seats at tables and cubicles – at a distance of two meters, of course. They say pent-up demand, additional incentive money, and the administration of more vaccines build guest confidence.
Restaurant Row on Second Street – long the destination for intimate dinners for dancing, bachelorette parties, and girls' nights – has been quiet since the March 2020 pandemic. Last summer it was a hive of activity on Saturday night as the city closed its streets, including part of North Second, for al fresco dining.
Owners like Ron Kamionka, who owns a handful of municipal facilities, are welcoming the deal.
“The last three nights have been busy. The weather was nice and I think because people were restricted before they are taking full advantage of it, ”he said.
Many barflies revert to old habits and later stay outside.
Kamionka's Bourbon Street Saloon is currently open, as is its suburb Joe K's Brewhouse in Susquehanna Township. Later that month, he plans to reopen Taste of Key West in Harrisburg, followed by Sawyers, also in town, in early May.
Kamionka said he anticipates there will be a lot going on this weekend and is bringing back a police detail to ensure safety. But that doesn't mean he expects monstrous crowds.
"You only get your large amount when the weather breaks and you get over 60 degrees at night. Then everything usually breaks loose," he said.
Otherwise, Kaminoka said he would monitor the mass flow and ensure COVID-19 security measures are followed. One of the most difficult rules to enforce is making sure people stay seated.
“Unfortunately, that's our job now. It would be nice not to have to be the masked police and remind everyone to sit down. Until that is over, part of our job is to be second grade teachers, ”he said.
At Arooga, the guests are back at the bar and the garage doors were rolled up this week due to the warm weather. Gary Huether, co-owner of the chain, said the cash business was missed the most during the pandemic.
“I think part of a sports bar is the bar atmosphere, the socializing at the bar. What people don't think is individuals. Will you come in and sit at a table alone? "Asked Huether.
From his point of view, the swing is just beginning.
Huether said he hoped in the near future as more vaccines were administered and the state would soon increase indoor restaurant capacity to 100%. Until then, Arooga's restaurants will practice social distancing by tidying tables and advising against dancing.
"I think people are ready to come out, and I think if the vaccines go on, you will see a lot of pent-up demand," Huether said.
Some business owners, like Niko Cabrera from Nikos Pizza on Second Street, aren't ready to open for late night service just yet. The restaurant stops at 8 p.m. Shut down. Before the pandemic, Niko was only on duty at 2 a.m. on Saturday evening.
"I think if we see more people in the next few weeks we may make more adjustments," he said, adding that he will see how this weekend goes.
"I don't think we're not in the woods yet," added Cabrera.