Sun Prairie resident Dave Voeck sat at the bar of the Green Lantern Restaurant in McFarland on Friday afternoon awaiting his takeout order of fish, noodles and chicken strips. He was buying the food for himself and a friend who takes care of his dog. A restaurant regular, Voeck enjoys getting a table, and socializing with other regulars while eating.
That came to a halt after the threat of the coronavirus forced Gov. Tony Evers to prohibit public gatherings at restaurants, churches and other establishments with hopes spreading of the disease will be minimized.
Voeck, who retired three months ago after 42 years at Madison Gas and Electric, said the food is fantastic whether he takes it out or sits at a table. But it is different seeing dozens of tables with unoccupied chairs.
“I really like the people down here,” Voeck said. “Whatever I can do to help them out. If everyone did it, it would add up and help quite a bit.”
Green Lantern co-owner Joy Wheeler said the restaurant took an enormous financial hit in the first week restrictions were implemented. She accepts what must be done, but it hasn’t been easy.
“The anxiety level is up. I’m worried about my staff. Worried about my customers. Worried about the community,” Wheeler said.
She added that precautions are being taken by employees to protect takeout customers.
“Chefs wipe down all hard surfaces, and they package the food accordingly,” she said. “They are wearing gloves, sanitizing and wiping down surfaces after any interaction with a customer.”
Wheeler said customers may have their orders delivered to their cars outside or they may come inside through the main entrance. She said frequent patrons of the Green Lantern have been tremendously supportive, but they are frustrated that they can’t visit the restaurant under normal circumstances.
“It probably bothers them more than it bothers us. We love seeing them, and we love all their faces. They are our livelihood,” Wheeler said. “They make us smile when they come in the door.”
Yet, she accepts that the restaurant may be restricted to takeout orders for the next several weeks or months. With Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on the horizon, the restaurant may start offering family meal plans that can feed a multitude of people.
Currently, lunch and dinner orders are taken daily, and breakfast is offered Saturday or Sunday. Strategies may change if business starts to pick up.
“Between the community, social media, friends and family talking to each other, I think it’s going to help the staff a lot more,” Wheeler said.
Rick Hubanks, owner of Angelo’s restaurant in McFarland, said business has been very good, although lack of liquor sales has meant less money in the cash register. He said the eatery has been accustomed to fulfilling takeout orders for pizza and pasta. They are currently offering a family meal deal that provides enough pasta, bread and salad for a family of four at a reduced cost.
“Customers know what has to be done. We are happy to serve what we can for food,” Hubanks said. “We may be in for a long haul. Until they tell us we can’t do it anymore, we’ll keep doing it.”