PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This first Monday of the year means a roll back of the COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants that were imposed to avoid a holiday spike.

Fearful of another last minute shut down leaving his restaurants holding a refrigerator full of perishables, Mark Baranowski, who owns the North Park Lounges is holding off reopening until this coming Friday.

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But Kirk Vogel, who owns the Walnut Grills can’t wait to get the doors open today.

Vogel says the loss of December and the holidays was tough, “Unfortunately, not being able to do anything besides carry out and delivery. With a little bit of the patio seating, depending on how the weather was, was very difficult, difficult to the restaurant, and very difficult for the team that had to be unfortunately laid off during the shutdown.”

But that ends today, “So, inside of the restaurant so you can come in, 50% occupancy with our social distancing and all the other responsible guidelines we have to follow. We’re still not permitted to use our bar tops, and we can’t serve from the bar either, so you have to be seating, and you have to be eating, to have a drink.”

Alcohol consumption has to end at 11:00 p.m.

Watch as KDKA’s John Shumway reports:


While being able to reopen is a good thing, Vogel says it comes at a rough time of year.

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“Historically its not really a great quarter, weather has a big impact on how we perform. So by not having the bar area, I mean, that’s about 30% of the average restaurant and bar revenue that we just can’t capture, because we’re not allowed to use that seating. So between that and the weather it is going to be interesting, but we’ll continue just to kind of move, navigate that, and do what we have to in order to make it work.”

Of course, there is the question of whether customers are going to be comfortable going back into restaurants.

“I do think we’re gonna have people that are gonna want to come out there seems to be a good percentage of the population that is, they’re not trying to be reckless they’re just simply trying to enjoy a little bit of hospitality and get out of their homes. As long as we’re doing what we need to do protect them and they’re wearing their masks coming into the restaurants and following the rules that are in front of them, you know it’s a win win for everybody and I do think we’ll see demand.”

In fact they are counting on it, “We’re looking forward to getting back to more normal revenue cycles where we can you know project and predict a little bit better, and then be able to, you know, make the best out of what we can at that point in time. But these dollars, and I think it goes for any, any industry that can impact the way we did, they’re just not gonna be able to be made up.”

As for making ends meet under the current restrictions, “This time of the year is going to be touch and go. You know we’ve been we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to kind of pivot pretty quickly, and now we’ve done this three times so we’ve kind of learned how to do it to the best of our ability but it’s certainly not a profitable period of time, you’re just trying to make ends meet and you’re trying to keep as many people employed as possible, so they can make some money on their end.”

Vogel does expect business will steadily pick up as we head towards spring and better weather.

In fact, he and his partners are optimistic enough about the business

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They recently opened a new location in Bethel Park and are currently renovating the old Max & Erma’s in Washington, Pa. and will be opening it as a Walnut Grill soon.