Welcome back! Local restaurants reopen their doors to diners

From Margonas Cantina: back row, left to right: Alejandro Aviles, Fernando Pérez, Edgar Morales, Luis Flores, Jorge Sanchez, Pedro Ramirez, Andres Garcia, Washington Sheffield, Saul Sanchez; front row, left to right: Regan Jarquin, Bere Sanchez, Diana Moreno and Gloria Martinez (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman restaurants eased into reopening to dine-in customers Monday after Governor Kay Ivey announced last Friday that some COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted. While a few local eateries were ready to open their doors, many local favorites remained closed. Those prepared to open Monday will continue offering carryout and curbside pickup to those customers who still might be hesitant to venture out.

Amy Gable, general manager of Carlton’s Italian Restaurant, said, “Inside we are just sitting the booths because they have the partition between them and every table 6 feet apart as far as seating goes. The last two months we’ve taken everything apart and cleaned everything and put it back together.”

Carlton’s will continue to offer curbside and carryout but will be unable to continue delivery services with staff resuming dine-in services.

“I’d like to continue delivery,” said Gable, “but I think it’s just going to be too much with what little staff we have.”

Carlton’s has a plan in place if the restaurant sees a rush of customers.

Said Gable, “If we do get a lot of people at once, they are just going to have to wait in their car and I’ll call them when their table is ready.”

Monday (prior to dinner) was not very busy for Gable and her staff.

“It was kind of last minute,” said of Ivey’s announcement last week. “She said it on Friday and we were trying to get a game plan together about whether we were for sure going to open today so I think people are just getting used to the idea of places opening back up. It’s going to take a week or two to get people back out. I was a little hesitant at first, but it’s been kind of staggered today so that’s good.”

Margaronas Cantina staff spent the day Monday making final preparations before opening to dine-in customers at 5 p.m. During the shutdown, the time was used to do some renovations and retrain staff.

Margaronas manager Jorge Sanchez explained, “We had everybody retrained and we did a little remodeling, got everything fixed up and everything. To open back up, we want to start a little slow just to get everything back into rhythm and everything going. All of these guys are going to be following the guidelines by dividing everything 6 feet apart, cleaning everything around and starting everything fresh. All our equipment, plates, everything, is going to be brand new. We are keeping everything sanitized, all the workers as well. We really want to get back to normal, but we want to do it slowly, (to) make sure everything is safe first for the customers and everybody.”

Sanchez said he realizes some customers may be wary of dining in, so carryout and curbside will continue there, too.

“There’s a lot of people that prefer to wait and see how things are going to go,” he said. “We encourage that as well. If they feel like it’s best for them, that’s great as well. That way we have some time to allow things to go back and see how everything is going to be. We are excited. All the guys are excited. I think a lot of people are ready for us to open, just like we are, but, of course, we can’t forget that there is still the virus and everything is going on. We got to be ready to take care of that.”

Rock N Roll Sushi opened its doors for lunch Monday, and only a few customers had trickled in before noon. Savannah Farley and Grace Whitmire drove up from Blountsville to have lunch at their favorite sushi place. The ladies said they made plans over the weekend to eat together at Rock N Roll Sushi as soon as they heard they could.

Farley said, “I’ve come a couple of times and ordered pickup and stuff, but it was definitely hard to not be able to eat inside.”

The best friends were excited to be able to be out and about.

Added Farley, “We missed that interaction and being able to get together and meet up for lunch.”

“This is our favorite place and the highlight of our day,” smiled Whitmire.

Rock N Roll Sushi will continue all services it began offering during the shutdown including the take-home meal kits. Dine-in customers will be able to order from the bar, but due to safety and distancing concerns, the bar will remain closed to seating.

“We have certain staff for the curbside, so they will be paying attention to them, and then we have our servers and staff serving inside. I think we have it set up pretty well,” Manager Tera Cofield said.

Copyright 2020 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Savannah Farley and Grace Whitmire drove in from Blountsville to eat at Rock N Roll Sushi in Cullman Monday. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)
Staff and customers are seen at Carlton’s Italian Restaurant Monday. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)