Dining out is back in the Poconos, but with new rules in place.


From face masks to limited tables, restaurant owners are taking things in stride as Monroe County permitted outside dining within the state’s yellow phase starting on June 5.


The new norm


Owner Dave LaPoint of Sarah Street Bar and Grill and his staff set up their outside deck (located at the top of the restaurant and with a view of town) at roughly 60% of its normal capacity in order to follow the six-foot separation rule.


He also has a large hand sanitation station available for staff.


As at his Stroudsburg staple, LaPoint notes that customers dining at Monroe county-based restaurants are required to wear masks when they enter and leave establishments, and also as they walk around ― to say ― use the restroom.


Don’t fret, LaPoint notes, you can take off it once you’re seated.


Reservations are also required at all eateries.


“Even a walk-in customer has to give us a name and phone number,” LaPoint said.


As of Friday, Sarah Street Bar and Grill said they were fully booked for both opening day and most of Saturday for tables of groups of 10 or less.


Renovations and additions


The sprawling Pint Size Park and Biergarten (and the six acres on the property) will be put to good use this summer at Barley Creek Brewing Company, says owner Trip Ruvane— but with some extra safety measures in place.


“The preparation to get it ready this year, required a master’s degree in teamwork. The safety of our people, guests and neighbors is our top priority. We are monitoring and following all the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health experts,” he said. “We are doing pre-shift health screening and temperature checks for all staff. Gloves, handwashing, masks, deep cleaning and more frequent sanitation of shared surfaces is happening.”


When they heard the county was entering the yellow phase, The Frogtown Chophouse owners Lyman Winner and Eric Noone spent weeks constructing an outdoor tent for diners in the case of inclement weather.


Luckily, the restaurant already had a deck in the back, so they can currently accommodate about 12-15 people at a time.


They also built a fiberglass station for their hosts.


“Our tables and chairs were completely renovated and refinished and everything was power-washed and cleaned,” Noone said.


The restaurant, which posted a “welcome back” video on Friday to diners, also recently renovated part of the inside bar area.


Food shortages


As the price of meat has gone up due to the pandemic, there have been slight changes in the way restaurants are able to order supplies.


Not to worry, you can still munch on your favorite burger, but eateries are having to go through more channels to find things such as beef because food suppliers, who relied on them as customers, took a big hit.


“There were some things that were unavailable that we couldn’t get. I was able to get (beef patties). But food purveyors are going through the same headaches as we are,” Sarah Street Grill executive chef, Robert Peoplesdorph said.


As far as daily food specials, he says the menu will adapt as business picks back up.


“Generally there would be would lunch and dining specials, but honestly our business has slowed down, so we’re doing what we did on the weekends and run (specials) for a couple days,” he said.


But expect summer eats, such as fresh salads and veggie sides, to be plentiful.


“The good part about that is the gardens are coming into flow now and we’re starting to get our stuff from our own garden for the specials and also locally. Farms are kicking into gear now so we’re going to start bringing in their products,” Peoplesdorph said.


Tech saavy


Though menus are still handed out, Sarah Street Bar and Grill and Frogtown Chophouse have designed QR codes, located on a piece of paper and compatible with your smartphone.


"You don’t have to download anything. You just open your camera as if you’re going to take a photo and hold it to the QR code, and it takes you right to our menu online,’’ Winner said.


Bite by bite


On Friday, best buds Michael Lucia of East Stroudsburg and Jer Richards of German, clinked their beer and cocktail glasses and cheered while dining at Sarah Street Bar and Grill.


Richards, who commented on the nice weather, ordered a cheeseburger. While Lucia, who was indecisive on ordering sushi or something else, was just happy to be out and about.


“I’ve been in my house for two months because I had a stroke and then this stupid disease started,” he said. “But I’ve never had a bad meal here, you’re safe with whatever you order.”


LaPoint knows the rules and regulations of the industry will change daily, but overall he’s in good spirits, happy to see new and old faces, including his employees.


“We had a pretty full kitchen and sushi staff working for take-out and curbside, but we’re slowing moving up. We didn’t have table servers and now they’ve been added on,” he said.


Noone adds, not unlike most of his fellow restaurateurs, they are prepared for whatever changes come.


It’s part of owning a business, after all.


“We trying to get back to normal here, we all want some sort of normalcy, but with following the full power of the CDC, and even more so if they customer wants us to. If you are super scared of contamination, and you want your entire dining experience to be with plastic and paper, we will accommodate that as well.”


Ruvane agrees: What’s ahead may be challenging.


“Friday, and for many days to come, will be like a grand opening challenge everyday with food and now COVID-19 critics seeing who can get balanced hospitality and safety in a good way,” he said. “Dining out needs to be a lot more enjoyable than a hospital cafeteria experience. More so than ever before, we're going to need to make a great first impression consistently everyday otherwise (our) guests will go somewhere else.”


To add your restaurant to the outdoor dining list, email mhood@poconorecord.com