Almost six months after the pandemic shuttered many local bars and businesses, most of these spots are open once again to Lehigh students and the local Bethlehem community with the addition of outdoor and limited indoor dining.
Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub is located a block away from Lehigh’s campus at the corner of East Fourth and New streets. Owner Charles Patrick said the business learned on St. Patrick’s Day that they could no longer serve customers inside and could only offer takeout food and beer.
Patrick said St. Patrick’s Day is normally their biggest day of the year and is followed by a busy spring with the NCAA tournament and seniors’ final semester. However, as students left campus and more restrictions were put in place, the business became unable to make a profit, and Patrick decided to shut it down.
“We opened up in April just because I couldn’t sit here and not try anymore,” Patrick said. “We did nothing until we were able to have outside seating.”
Patrick said, with Lehigh students back in Bethlehem, things have been OK, but they still have not been able to have some of their normal offerings. However, he said they plan to start karaoke, trivia and beer pong in September.
Seven Sirens Brewing Company, located on Broadway Street, opened its doors to the public for the first time on Valentine’s Day. Owner Jordan Serulneck said, after only being open for a month and having a strong reception, the business was forced to close its doors to guests in March.
Because the Brewing Company is a food manufacturer, Serulneck said they were able to still make and sell beer to-go during the pandemic. He said the business has been able to adapt to restrictions and capacity limits as more businesses opened throughout the spring and summer.
One of the adaptations Seven Sirens has made is the transformation of its parking lot into an area for outdoor seating.
“We have been figuring it out pretty much every step of the way,” Serulneck said.
Serulneck said business has picked up as more Lehigh students have started coming in since some students returned to campus this fall.
“(Having students back) is absolutely helping our business,” Serulneck said. “It’s valuable and one of the main reasons we came to Bethlehem.”
Tally Ho Tavern, located on East Fourth Street, faced similar challenges throughout the spring and summer. Upon learning of the restrictions in March, owner Harjaap Chatha shut down the business and employees filed for unemployment.
Chatha said St. Patrick’s Day usually kicks off Tally Ho’s busy spring season and that late April and early May are also good times for business as classes end and students, especially seniors, are celebrating. He said the business builds relationships with seniors from Lehigh, Moravian and DeSales because they come out so frequently during their final year.
“We really felt for them, too, because there goes their senior year,” Chatha said. “Where they would have really celebrated leaving college and spending all their time with their friends, now they are leaving campus.”
As the state lifted restrictions, Chatha said Tally Ho’s kitchen was able to reopen to make food for delivery through Grubhub and DoorDash. Eventually, when seated dining was allowed, Chatha said they were able to overcome indoor capacity limits by increasing socially distanced outdoor dining on their patio.
However, Chatha said he is concerned for when the weather begins to get colder and outdoor and patio dining becomes unavailable. Chatha said the business can get by for now with the current 25 percent indoor capacity, but in the long term it is a losing proposition.