Restaurants look ahead to inside dining reopening; mayor sets Wednesday announcement

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Some city restaurants last week could seat customers for the first time in months due to COVID-19 restrictions.

After months of carryout only, it is safe to say that the hundreds of people gathered on Massachusetts Avenue during the three-day Memorial Day weekend was a sign that they were excited to get a taste of normalcy even if it was, as city officials have directed, outside seating only.

The Marion County Public Health Department allowed outdoor seating only to start Friday with proper social distancing requirements. Mayor Joe Hogsett said last week if the path of the virus continues to stabilize and decline, indoor dining with restrictions on capacity could start as soon as Monday.

Indianapolis officials have announced they will have a video news conference at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to discuss next steps for reopening. WISH-TV and its streaming platforms will air it live.

Restaurants along Massachusetts Avenue were busy all weekend. Restaurant owners hope the momentum continues so they can make it to July to fully reopen.

The Rathskeller German restaurant, just off Massachusetts Avenue at 401 E. Michigan St. was one of the many restaurants downtown that were booked with reservations and had a wait list during the weekend.

“I did stick my nose out on Mass Avenue quite frequently, and there were a lot of people out walking around, and I saw almost all of the tables at the other neighboring restaurants full,” said Dan McMichael, owner of The Rathskeller.

An advantage the restaurant has is it already has a large amount of outdoor seating in its outdoor Biergarten that can seat hundreds of people.

“So on Friday night, we filled every table pretty quickly and we turned a lot of tables several times, and, Saturday, we were on our way to doing the same thing but we did get a big rain storm on Saturday,” McMichael said.

During the weekend, restaurants had to deal with the exact issue many feared when they found out all seating would be outdoors: rain.

“A lot of people didn’t even leave. They just kind of hung out on the stage and underneath some of the overhangs,” McMichael said.

Latea Lounge, a bubble tea store, also had a full patio during the weekend. With limitations in place and a large demand, many restaurants are running into a similar problem as they try to enforce social distancing.

“We didn’t have enough seating out there, so we would have to ask them to leave,” said Jennard Meneses, a Latea Lounge supervisor.

It seems people were eager to sit down and eat food they didn’t cook themselves as sidewalks and tables filled up.

“From our view, you could see at least 50 to close to 100 people,” Meneses said.

Restaurant owners say they hope that excitement continues as they continue to work toward reopening.

The Rathskeller’s McMichael said, “Well, we have got a lot of making up to do, there is no question about it.”

As they try to continue navigating uncharted waters, restaurants operators say they are looking toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We are planning on July 4 being open and ready to rock and roll and do what we do out here,” said McMichael.