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Customers Head Back To Restaurants As Connecticut Begins To Reopen

Restaurants returned to serving dining customers Wednesday as part of phase one of Connecticut’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

In Enfield, “reopening day” marked the return of The Country Diner, a spot that’s been closed for the past two months.

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Carrie Phimvongsa, manager of The Country Diner, hasn’t seen her customers since March after Gov. Ned Lamont ordered restaurants to stop providing anything but to-go service in an effort to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We’ve had [regular customers] pulling in while we’re setting up over the last couple of days, and it’s been amazing to see them -- amazing to know that they’re OK because the whole time we’re closed, we don’t know if they’re OK,” Phimvongsa said.

“We don’t know if they’re sick or if they lost any loved ones.”

To open, Phimvongsa said she and her family worked closely with the town’s health department.

The restaurant’s “new normal” includes a cart placed near the front entrance for customers to pick up food, hand sanitizing stations and a dining area in the parking lot. There are tables and chairs under tents in the parking lot. The customers will sit at least 6 feet apart from other parties.

Robert Climan, a returning regular, picked up a big breakfast from his favorite joint.

“I have a four-egg omelet with mushroom, onion, jalapeno, and filled with pepper jack cheese.”

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Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public
"You keep waiting to make parole," said Robert Climan, a regular at The Country Diner in Enfield who made his first trip to eat at a restaurant since the coronavirus outbreak forced him to stay in his home.

He hasn’t been out to eat since he last went to The Country Diner in March. During the pandemic -- and even now -- he said he feels “very restricted.”

“You’re mostly in the house,” Climan said. “This is a real treat to be able to come and get food out from this restaurant. “You keep waiting to make parole.”

Missing out on business for a couple of months had an impact on the restaurant, but Phimvongsa said her close-knit family kept it together to get to this reopening. She said being closed actually allowed them to make improvements to The Country Diner.

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