New Bern community hopes to make the Street Café permanent

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NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) A pandemic response to support New Bern restaurants has been well received that now there are talks to keep it around for good.

The city launched the street cafe in May to help businesses in the downtown area.

Leaders used it as a way to support local restaurants during this time.

This effort started back at the beginning of phase two of reopening. Every Friday and Saturday night, restaurants set up seating in the road on Middle Street.

It gives them an opportunity to add additional seating during a time when occupancy is reduced.

People will have the chance to go out to eat again and enjoy the weather while being socially distant.

The original ordinance carried this through August, yet a written request moved it to October.

The community and some city leaders want this to become an official downtown staple.

“Just gives downtown a great vibe and is a great thing for us to promote to other people coming to visit. Come to New Bern and be able to dine in our streets is a really cool thing,” said Sabrina Bengel, Ward 1, New Bern Board of Aldermen

She adds that this not only helps local restaurants but it also brings attention to other surrounding businesses in downtown

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NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – The time has come when you can dine-in at a restaurant. It’s part of Governor Cooper’s phase two of reopening the economy.

In New Bern, restaurant owners are stepping up their cleaning, employees will be wearing masks and gloves, and enforcing social distancing between tables.

Bay Leaf Restaurant in downtown closed for more than a month because of the pandemic. The owner Rubina Lal felt it was the right decision to keep her staff safe.

Friday afternoon, she reopened her doors with a few changes. The bar is no longer in service because keeping tables six feet apart took up space. An employee will serve the breakfast buffet to avoid having people touch the utensils. And after each customer uses the bathroom, a worker will sanitize it.

On the other block, Baker’s Kitchen has been offering curbside and pickup orders. Staff have taken advantage of this time to expand their services. The restaurant will not only offer breakfast and lunch, but an Italian and Southern dinner as well. It’s part of their new service called Something at Baker’s Kitchen.

“People can dine out in the streets, and gives us a chance to put more of our workers back to work,
especially with only being able to do 50 percent of our restaurant,” said Buddy Bengel, dir. of custodial services at Baker’s Kitchen.

Down the street, carry-out has been the order of the day at M.J. Raw Bar and Grille. Now the seafood restaurant is ready to welcome a certain amount of customers inside.

“I hope that people are understanding because there’s going to be only so many seats, and alot of nose​ unfortunately,” said the owner Mike Lentz.

The owner says phase two will be a challenge dealing with the customer to waiter ratio.

“Sometimes those ratios don’t really work out to profit, or and can come close to breaking even,” said Lentz.

Lentz will wait until next weekend to participate in the street cafes. Restaurants like Baker’s Kitchen were one of many to set up their tables outside in the streets of downtown New Bern.

Every weekend, restaurants will allow customers to enjoy their food outside on Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

There’s an exception Memorial Day weekend. Street cafes will also be in operation on Sunday.

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