MANCHESTER, N.H. – Monday was a beautiful day in the Queen City and that sunshine served as a backdrop for the return of outdoor dining in New Hampshire, including one local bistro getting used to the new normal.
Located on Hanover Street and Chestnut Street, Ignite Restaurant Owner/Operator Ann Masterson and her staff put out ten tables for customers, a partial return to life before COVID-19.
While the pandemic is going to make it impossible to duplicate what Masterson says was record-setting revenues in 2019 for Ignite, her regulars have kept the restaurant going over the last few weeks.
One of those regulars on Monday was Keith Campbell, owner of a hair salon nearby on Elm Street. He also has a reservation for Wednesday night.
Campbell would like the city to close down Elm Street to let smaller restaurants without significant sidewalk frontage to do something similar to Ignite, even if he still has concerns about COVID-19 overall.
“I think it’s too early for my salon to re-open, but outside dining, yeah. And open up the streets,” he said. “I don’t know how safe I’d feel inside with a bunch of people, though.”
Others such as Mark Stys and his wife Susan just wanted to get out of the house.
Mark was surprised that there weren’t more restaurants with outdoor seating in Manchester on Monday, and wants the city’s restaurants to return to normal.
“This economy can’t take anymore. You’ve got to open, otherwise we’ll have to support everybody. I’d be glad to go eat into any restaurant,” he said. “I’m not concerned with (COVID-19). I work out in the field every day without a mask and I feel great.”
Masterson says that business was steady on Monday afternoon and had plenty of reservations for Monday evening. While she hopes indoor dining can return sometime in June, she’s ready to wait if needed.
“I’m not a scientist, so I’m going to go with what they say. The safety of my customers and staff is number one,” she said. “I just hope the virus slows down enough to let us go back inside soon.”