Local food services have been making accommodations to help the community adjust to the spread of COVID-19 in the state, especially after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday made the announcement that Maryland restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters would be closed, with the exception of drive-through, carry-out and delivery food services. The restrictions will be strictly enforced until further notice.
Irene Parrish, owner of Ye Olde Towne Cafe in Leonardtown, said she noticed business started declining last Thursday, and since then she “saw [closures] coming.”
“We feed a lot of senior citizens … there is a grave concern with the elderly here,” she said. “Seniors are not like young people” when it comes to planning ahead for meals, “and in turn, we are here for them.”
Parrish said she will be providing carry-out food services from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, “until the governor says they can’t.”
Catherine Grube, owner of St. Inie’s Coffee in Lexington Park, had closed the doors of her business to prevent spreading the virus last week, before it was announced by the governor restaurants were no longer allowed to provide dine-in services.
Grube said last Thursday the coffee house did a “trial run” for a drive-through station, giving people an option other than going into an often-crowded social meeting space, when there still was the option.
“Kids don’t show symptoms,” she said, expressing concerns with a dedicated space at St. Inie’s where children normally play.
“I read Starbucks is sanitizing its surfaces every 20 minutes” and that is “impossible for a small business,” she said, especially her’s where there are “books, toys, surfaces” and more to keep up with.
So far, the impromptu drive-through in the business’s parking lot has been a success. Grube said they’re “lucky the weather has been so nice,” and it’s good to be outside, rather than in a confined space.
“People can get their coffee and go on a walk,” she said.
St. Inie’s will continue operating with the drive-through station through the closures, according to Grube, to help protect the community while still meeting it’s coffee needs.
Several sit-in restaurants in the county, such as Linda’s Cafe in Lexington Park and Helen’s Cafe in Charlotte Hall, are offering new delivery options as an alternative to customers having to leave their home to pick up their orders. Some others are simply offering new curbside pickup and/or have signed up with Door Dash, a food delivery service, such as Nicoletti’s Pizza in California. The Nicoletti’s Pizza food truck is also visiting local communities in the evening; today the truck will be near the Wildewood Community Pool from 5 to 8 p.m. Staff is willing to take recommendations on other locations the truck should visit, according to an online post from the store.
In addition to take-out and curbside services, The Foxy Fish in Mechanicsville is selling grocery items, such as milk, eggs, toilet paper and paper towels to help cater to those trying to avoid large crowds at grocery stores.
Debbie Buckler, owner of The Foxy Fish, said on Wednesday she’s heard from employees and customers over the past week that “grocery stores are cleaned out,” and people in the community are struggling to find essential items.
Last Sunday, before the closures, Buckler said she held a promotion at the restaurant where customers received a free roll of toilet paper with any dine-in or take-out order of $20 or more “to let people know they were still open.”
She has access to bulk supply chains, like Sysco, which works exclusively with restaurants, and is able to purchase items such as toilet paper in large amounts.
“People are not just looking for take-out because they are tired of eating at home,” they are also looking for essential items in a time of crisis, she said.
Grocery stores have been doing their part, too. Giant Food stores have adjusted their store hours to close at 10 p.m., two hours earlier than usual, and have dedicated the first hour they are open to shoppers age 60 and older, to help practice social-distancing with groups of people who are especially susceptible to the virus.
Community members who have questions about COVID-19 can visit the health department’s website, www.smchd.org/coronavirus, for local updates and information or call the St. Mary’s County COVID-19 Community Hotline, Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 301-475-4911.