BRISTOL – Unlike the warm and sunny days of Thursday and Friday, the first day of the Memorial Day weekend Saturday was rainy and grey and didn’t lend itself well to outdoor dining. However, that didn’t stop shoppers from visiting Westfarms Mall and supporting local businesses.
The parking lot at Westfarms Mall was packed with cars Saturday as it opened. Inside, shoppers wore their masks and stuck to small groups. Although many of their favorite shops were open, dining was limited to the large seating areas where chairs were spaced apart in keeping with social distancing.
Jessica Novacs, who was shopping with a friend, said that she was “very excited” to be back at the mall.
“I’m glad to be able to get out into the community,” she said. “It’s nice to see people again.”
Eric Valentino, who was shopping with Nicole Pepper, said he was going to take his time and look around.
“I love coming here,” he said. “This is one of my go-to spots.”
Khamahl Beckford, who was shopping with a group of friends, had come to pick up some new sneakers.
“It’s almost the same but it’s not the same,” he said. “There are no big differences though.”
Alex Arango said that he hoped to get some new clothes and check out Texas de Brazil.
“I’m glad to be back,” he said. “We’ve all been tucked away for way too long.”
Sam Dauberman, who was shopping with Faith Hollis, said that he too was glad to be back.
“Being trapped at home is no fun,” he said. “I’m here to go to Build-A-Bear. My sister just had a baby.”
In New Britain, Ponce Supermarket at 447 Osgood Ave. remained as busy as ever despite the weather. Customers lined up for empanadas, pepper steak or roasted pork with yellow rice and other Spanish-style foods. There, customers can find wooden tables set up outside near the parking lot for people to enjoy outdoor dining.
“Things have been going ok – people keep coming,” said Yael Urena, an employee. “People have been eating on the tables every day that the weather is good.
At Adina’s Pizzeria, just around the corner at 2012 Corbin Ave., regulars have continued to support the business says employee Johnny Allko. Although there is no longer dining inside of the pizzeria, there is a wooden table set up outside with an umbrella for customers to enjoy on nicer days.
“Things have been crazy, a lot of restaurants have been getting killed but we’re going ok,” he said. “Although our two tables inside have nothing set up, we get a lot of orders for take-out and delivery.”
In Mike’s Pizza & Grill, located at 182 Pine St. in Bristol, owner Tahsin Aslan said that he is also doing well with take-out orders. He said that he hasn’t felt the need to look into using parking spaces for outdoor dining.
“We’ve got a lot of loyal customers,” he said. “We have good, inexpensive food. People really like the steak grinders and the buffalo pizza.”
Krishna Naha, owner of Crystal Diner at 43 Main St. in Bristol, is continuing to serve customers often with only himself and one other waitress working. He says that some days he gets a lot of business and, on others, business has been slow.
“People have been doing a lot of at the door pickup now,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new customers from UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub.”
Naha said he has applied for outdoor dining, but that what he was told was available in his lot wouldn’t be worth it. He is hoping that the city will assist him by providing additional space.
“I was told that it would be $3,500 to lease 3 of 4 spaces, which isn’t worthwhile,” he said. “I bought tables, but I would need more space to put them out.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.