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Restaurants React to Rising COVID-19 Cases

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Julio's is taking a break as COVID-19 cases rise. Photo by Phil Dodd

Restaurants around town are taking a hiatus as COVID cases continue to rise in Washington County. Julio’s Cantina is one of several local restaurants to do so recently.

In a Nov. 24 Facebook post, the restaurant announced it will be closed until further notice. “After checking in with our core staff, listening to the governor’s guidance, and reviewing the upcoming holiday, we have decided not to reopen for to-go or our new delivery service at this time,” wrote owner John Mayfield.

Mayfield told The Bridge that the decision to close was a precautionary measure taken in light of the recent spike in cases around Montpelier. In early November, a staff member came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, no one at the restaurant tested positive. But after multiple staff members told him that they would be spending Thanksgiving with family members outside of their household, Mayfield concluded that it was more important to mitigate the risk of exposure than it was to stay open.

“We are making this decision out of an abundance of caution, for you, our community, and our staff,” he wrote. Meanwhile, the restaurant will use that time to install a new HVAC system and operable windows to provide better air circulation. 

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Julio’s Cantina has not been open for indoor dining since March because of a lack of spaced seating and airflow, but it has provided takeout and delivery options for hungry customers. Mayfield hopes that dine-in service will be back open by next March, although he said it may open earlier depending on the state of the pandemic. Takeout and delivery, however, will resume as soon as Mayfield and his employees feel confident that it will be safe.

Other restaurants have opted for day- or week-long closures. Gusto’s Bar in Barre shut down “out of an abundance of caution” on Nov. 2 after learning that a patron tested positive for COVID-19. The bar reopened on Nov. 9 once all staff members tested negative for the virus. It is currently open for both dine-in and takeout.

Sarducci’s, which opened up bar seating one month before the state ordered all bars to shut down in-person service, has shifted to takeout only. An online ordering system is currently in the works. Until then, customers can order over the phone from the restaurant’s online menu.

More temporary closures are to be expected in the upcoming weeks. But Mayfield wants to assure the public that restaurant owners are not going into “crisis mode.” 

“We’re closing as a preventative measure. . .the restaurant owners I know are professional operators who make these hard decisions day by day, all to keep our community members safe,” he said.