The mask mandate in Indiana has been lifted but many local restaurants are continuing to ask customers to wear face coverings.
The Allen County Department of Health is encouraging businesses and facilities to continue requiring masks while vaccination efforts are still underway. Restaurant operators say they are following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical experts as well as honoring employee and customer concerns.
“We are thankful for the support and acknowledge that we have been intentional all along,” says Mary Corinne Lowenstein, director of marketing at Hop River Brewing Co. “Our decision shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point.”
The Harrison Street brewery will continue to require masks for staff as well as customers when they are not in their seats.
In its statement on social media, Hop River says about its policy: “This will continue to create a safe and welcoming brewery for everyone as more vaccines roll out and people receive them. We look forward to landing on a new normal without masks when the time is right.”
Employees will still wear masks at Mad Anthony Brewing Co. and Shigs In Pit BBQ restaurants, which will continue to encourage diners to wear masks when they are not seated. Masks will be optional on restaurant patios.
“We've had a great response so far on social media and many guests are happy to see that we're continuing our policy,” says Josh Volz, director of marketing and design for Mad Anthony and Shigs In Pit. “We'll be evaluating this weekly and are happy to see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.”
He added that the policy will allow employees sufficient time to get vaccinated if they choose to.
Krystal Vega, owner of Zinnia's Bakehouse, says her business is predominantly curbside right now but it will continue to require masks at the 236 E. Wayne St. shop.
“As a single business we have to be grateful and appreciate how our customers have treated us in this,” Vega says. “As one of a large industry, I am afraid for other teams who have already been treated horribly for just sticking to the then mandate.
“I can only hope that our community keeps one thing in mind, stronger together!”
Many statements from restaurants encourage a sense of community moving forward, some adding in a request for respect. The possibility – and, maybe, fear – of backlash evident in their posts.
Here is a sampling of how local businesses are navigating mask policies.
• Conjure Coffee, 701 Columbia Ave., will continue to require masks for staff and guests who choose to go inside.
• Copper Spoon, 301 W. Jefferson Blvd., will continue asking guests to wear masks. Staff will also continue wearing face coverings.
• Country Heritage Winery in LaOtto will offer tables on a first-come, first-served basis and no longer take reservations. It will also open up its tasting bar. Full tastings include six samples for $5. Masks are no longer required by guests, but they are recommended. Tables are still spaced to meet social distancing guidelines.
• Firefly Coffee House, 3523 N. Anthony Blvd., will continue to require masks for guests and staff.
• Fortezza Coffee, 819 S. Calhoun St., will require masks to be worn when coming in, placing an order and until sitting down.
• Junk Ditch Brewing Co., 1825 W. Main St., will require masks to be worn by staff and guests. “As a company we are committed to keeping our staff and community safe. We are grateful for all the support we have seen throughout the last year, and look forward to what the future will bring,” wrote the owners of Affine Hospitality in a social media post.
• Three Rivers Distilling Co., 224 E. Wallace St., will continue to require masks inside the restaurant and/or distillery. However, the patio will be mask free. Employees will continue to wear masks.
Umi giving back
Umi Fort Wayne, 2912 Getz Road, will host a day of giving April 14 to benefit Super Shot and Easter Seals.
Umi will open at 11 a.m. April 14, and 50% of all revenue and 25% of tips will be donated to one of the two charities. Servers will keep all of their tips; Umi will match and donate the 25%.
Customers can choose a charity by writing on the back of their receipt. Customers can also choose to give to both.
If Umi raises $10,000, the restaurant's owners will donate an additional $1,000 to each organization.
Food truck shuts
The owners of iGrandma's food truck announced that they are leaving the mobile food scene and – calling the moment bittersweet – have sold the truck.
“We sold the truck only, but at this point do not have future plans for the iGrandma's business,” Matt Hochstetler says. “It's been a pleasure meeting and serving so many wonderful people the past 5 years, and that is what we will miss the most.”
The food truck was based in DeKalb County and served food that would remind you of Grandma's cooking. Dishes included slow-roasted pork and beef, grilled chicken sandwiches and chicken and biscuits.
• Salvatori's announced that it is suspending Saturday and Sunday brunch service at its restaurants as a result of staffing issues.
• Banh Mi Pho Shop, 1925 Fairfield Ave., has announced that it will open its new patio on May 5.
• Pretzel Bites have returned at Culver's – and this time, it's for good. Previously only available in the fall, growing sales prompted Culver's to make it a permanent menu item. The popularity of pretzel bites has grown, with sales soaring from 726,000 orders in 2018 to more than 4.3 million orders in 2020.
• McDonald's announced an addition to its treat menu – the Caramel Brownie McFlurry. The McFlurry will be available for a limited time beginning May 3. It will be made with the fast food restaurant's ice cream, brownie pieces and caramel topping.
The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 461-8304 at least two weeks before event or desired publication.