Back to Breakfast: At 50 Percent Capacity, Bellefonte Waffle Shop Reopens
BELLEFONTE — After a long six months, The Waffle Shop in Bellefonte opened its doors on Thursday after the state allowed restaurants to operate at up to 50% capacity beginning this week.
Finally, diners can sit down at their favorite booth, order up their “usual” and catch up with servers they haven’t seen in what has felt like ages. A “cornerstone of Bellefonte” is back up and running, said owner Greg Kight, with an extra effort to keep things as safe as possible under the current circumstances.
“I like to think it is kind of like a Cheers restaurant,” said Kight about the community feeling of the breakfast and lunch restaurant that was closed in late March. He said the place long served as a meeting space for many regulars who came in often for a meal and to catch up with friends.
It has been a long six months away from that atmosphere for him and his staff, filled with uncertainty.
“The first month was kind of fun. But after that, as time went on it got kind of scary and boring. I’ve been working since I was 13-years-old and to go this long without working is difficult,” said Kight.
He said he found himself visiting to the restaurants (he also owns the one on East College Avenue in State College) a couple times a week to check on them. He said the initial decision to remain closed was based on a desire to keep his employees and customers safe.
He said that when the state allowed restaurants to open at 25-percent capacity, he did not feel that was a viable option for a business that survives based on the volume of customers it serves.
“Fifty percent is going to make a big difference. The Waffle Shop as a whole does it business on volume. That is no secret. Coming to fifty percent is still a little scary about how it is going to go and how we are going to do? But if we really watch, and I’ve got some aces in my kitchen, that we watch the numbers and watch what we have on our shelves and really closely monitor our produce, because we do so much fresh, we are going to have to watch that,” said Kight.
As far as when the downtown State College location at 364 E. College Ave. will get back to serving up breakfast and lunch, he said he is taking a wait and see approach as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise due to the influx of Penn State students.
“Our plan was to open both of the locations. But as the cases continued to rise, we decided that with the students leaving [on Nov. 20] and not coming back until the middle of January, we decided to postpone opening State College,” said Kight. “It is a hard decision to do, but with safety being utmost and most important to us, we did not want to take the chance.”
He said he hopes the number of cases in the State College area starts to decline and he anticipates, “that whenever the students come back in January, we will reopen. It is important to see how the community as a whole starts to settle down.”
Kight said in Bellefonte, the restaurant will focus on safety as it opens back up.
“We are going to have a sign on the door and emphasis to our customers that masks are required when you come in and when you leave. If everybody can do their part just a little bit, I am hoping that we can get this thing better. We are going to do our part. I am concerned for my employees and I am concerned for our customers. We miss the heck out them — I value each and every one of those people who come through that door and I mean that with the most sincerity. I realize it might take a little bit of time for some of them to feel comfortable going out, but we are going to exercise every caution, sanitize wise, as possible to adhere to the rules and regulations.”
Kight said he is glad that most of his staff is coming back and said they will have to get used to being back in the swing of things with new regulations in place, but he said he is excited to see them able to be back doing their job. He has stayed in touch with his employees to make sure that they were okay throughout the closure, and said some have struggled receiving unemployment compensations due to hold ups in the system. He said he did his best to help them weather the storm because, “I have got a lot of employees who have been here for a long time … a lot of dedicated people. I say it every time I am around my employees, ‘I can’t do this without them.”
The Waffle Shop will be open with limited hours every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.