Wichitans stand up for sit-down dining

Written by Joe Stumpe

Fine dining is back in Wichita and not a moment too soon for restaurant owners and many patrons.

“A lot of people are very positive and thanking us for being open, and couldn’t wait for us to be open,” said Melad Stephan, owner of Sabor Latin Bar & Grill in Old Town Square.

“People are saying, ‘We can’t wait to get out of the house, we’ve been cooped up and we’re really looking to come out,’ ” echoed Seth Glassman of 6S Steakhouse on the city’s west side.

On the other hand, enough residents are still concerned about the coronavirus threat that they’re staying away from all public places. For most restaurants, that means sales are about half to 25 percent of normal.

In other words, you shouldn’t have to fight for a table at your favorite place.

In addition to more stringent health and social distancing regulations imposed by the state, diners will find other changes on the city’s dining scene as restaurateurs used the downtime to revamp menus and facilities.

Ty Issa, who owns three well-known dining establishments — YaYa’s, Larkspur and Scotch & Sirloin — with his brothers Mike and Ali, said they kept some employees working on remodeling projects during their six-week shutdown. “We really weren’t closed,” he said.

Music returned to YaYa’s patio May 20.

“Definitely our customers are happy to see us come back,” he said, though he fears a return to normal business volume “is going to be a long time coming.”

Diners at Fredo’s will notice a different menu, owner Fredo Abdelmaseh said. The bistro will still offer tapas for sharing, but also more steaks and pasta entrees designed for individual enjoyment. Upon its reopening May 11, customers “were excited that we were one of the first places to open back up,” said Abdelmaseh. “They absolutely missed the patio.” As did he. “We missed the music, the customers.”

John Arnold had actually revamped the menu at Greystone Restaurant just prior to the shutdown to attract a younger crowd with lower prices. That’s still in effect now that the restaurant is back open, along with Oak & Pie and Stearman Field Bar & Grill, which Arnold also owns.

Arnold said dining out is definitely different for everyone involved right now, with restaurant capacity limited to 50 percent, servers wearing masks and gloves and table set-ups removed between each meal for sanitizing.

“People that are coming out, they’re really happy to be out,” Arnold said. “We just need to get the economy going again.”

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