Indoor dining before June 20 may be on the table

Coronavirus

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Connecticut Restaurant Association is working with the state to get indoor dining before the June 20 deadline. It helps to have a heavy hitter on your side like Geno Auriemma, UConn Women’s Basketball Coach and restaurateur.

Auriemma said the notion that you “cross over the Connecticut River and Utopia is [the only thing] over there food-wise” bothered him. Instead of accepting it, he built Aura.

“You know what, we’re going to build a place where people from there are gonna drive over here and you know what they have,” he said.”

That fighting spirit from Auriemma is keeping his restaurant Cafe Aura in Manchester alive. It was only open a few months when COVID-19 hit.

His team has been doing curbside pick up. They applied and received the federal payroll protection plan, so 42 employees can get paid.

“We hired everyone back that felt they wanted to come back,” said Randy McNamara, who is in charge of running Cafe Aura.

Auriemma said there are plans in place for social distancing protocols.

“The make up of the bar will be different, the tables will be different,” he told News 8.

Health and sanitizing have always been part of his playbook.

“These people [restaurant professionals] are great at making sure everything is healthy and clean,” Auriemma said.

Coming back in before Saturday, June 20 is the game plan. Coach Auriemma and The Connecticut Restaurant Association are drawing up the play and working with the State Department of Economic and Community Development to strike a balance.

McNamara, a veteran restaurateur, said for anyone who’s opened on a hot/cold turnaround, “you don’t want to do it on a Saturday.”

Auriemma said he can’t wait to have guests dining back inside. He recommends the chef’s salmon dish.

“You gotta have the salmon with ratatouille. Oh, my God, it’s unbelievable!”

Will he open outdoor dining? McNamara is crunching the numbers for Aura.

“It’s gonna be a flip of the coin,” McNamara said. “We will see.”

There is a big parking lot on the property where Aura could put up a tent for outdoor dining. The town of Manchester is on board. At this point management is weighing its options.

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