Return of the regulars: Indoor and outdoor options giving restaurants a boom

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Federal Reserve is reporting sales in April and May exceeded that same timeframe in 2019.

While outdoor dining largely fueled those numbers, indoor dining sales also saw a jump. At the Bluebonnet Diner in Northampton regulars are reclaiming their seats.

“The loosening of the restrictions has kind of opened up the door,” said owner James Greco. “Some of our regulars who haven’t been sitting at the bar were here Tuesday. They couldn’t wait to come in.”

It was regulars like Michael Cherry who supported the 70-year-old business, even when take-out was the only option.

When 22News asked Cherry when he felt ready sitting inside at the diner he said, “The day they opened. I couldn’t wait.”

However, some people did wait to eat indoors, like John Benoit. Fully vaccinated, he’s enjoying french toast and home fries at a place that’s been a hub for his family, especially his father.

“He was coming here in the ’50s,” Benoit said. “I was ten years old when he brought us here. We used to sit at the counter.”

That counter is the one thing that remains closed at the diner. That’s because like many businesses they’re facing a hiring shortage. Meantime, Greco said he’s glad to welcome the old and new faces. Keeping the legacy of this family-owned diner alive.

“I feel like we’ve made it,” Greco said. “We’ve made it, we can say, through the pandemic.”

Greco said there are some changes they’d like to see stick around, like not opening at 5:30 a.m. and online ordering.

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