MADISON, NJ - Main Street Madison is not so quiet anymore. From live music at Shanghai Jazz to fun appetizers at Bottle Hill Tavern, Madison restaurants welcomed customers back starting Monday, June 15.
Beautiful mid-June weather contributed to the week’s success as restaurant owners enthusiastically invited diners to enjoy long-awaited meals in the great outdoors.
“It’s been great,” said Danny Horn, manager of the Bottle Hill Tavern. “The town’s been very supportive,” he added. The restaurant worked with neighboring businesses who allowed them to expand Bottle Hill’s outdoor seating to the front of their storefronts (Waverly TV and Crowley Cupcakes). “There’s a real community movement to get normalcy back,” he said.
Indeed, all around, the town has allowed restaurants to expand sidewalk dining in front of neighboring businesses with permission and has also given permission for businesses to convert private parking to dining areas. There is also public parking to spread out tables which Central and Main took advantage of propping up several additional spots with lovely little fences and canopies.
Permit processes were fast-tracked to help local businesses out. “We worked with the state early to make it easier for restaurants to expand liquor licenses,” said Mayor Bob Conley, who explained that an easy online process and a $75 fee allows businesses to be able to serve alcohol outside.
Setting up its spacious back parking lot, Shanghai Jazz has a nice ambiance with live music, potted plants and plenty of tables. Servers don jazz-inspired masks, wear gloves and sanitize tables and chairs between customers. A basket on the table features hand sanitizer and disposable paper bags to store customer masks.
Nearby Rocco's Tuscany Bar and Grill just invested in sturdy party tents pitched up in parking spots next to the restaurant. Capacity is approximately 50, and owner Gino Iossa said he already had several reservations for the weekend. “It’s been working out,” said Iossa. “It’s been great to see customers again,” he added.
On Main Street, Il Goccino’s has created a great atmosphere while also expanding to neighboring storefronts and the adjacent alley. Across from Chipotle, Osteria Trevi has several inviting tables in its parking lot ready to welcome customers for lunch and dinner.
In the works is a partial closing of Waverly Place. Bottle Hill Tavern on Waverly is on board and other restaurants can join in even if they are not located on Waverly Place. “It’s similar to other towns,” said Conley, who said each restaurant can set their own tone to customize the dining experience. “Each restaurant provides its own tables, manages who is coming and going and cleans in between,” he explained.
As Madison’s beloved longtime diner, the Nautilus has ample tables set up right out front of its property. A Mother and her two visiting daughters enjoyed afternoon coffee on a shaded table one day last week. The family has been dining there since the girls were kids. “We miss our customers,” said one of the employees adding that it was great to see regulars slowly coming back.
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