Eating inside a restaurant has given some concerned with contracting COVID-19 anxiety about their health and safety. A few members of the community have said their anxiety has been heightened with the increased promotion of dining-in for the two-week Devour Bloomington event.
Devour Bloomington is a 14-day event from Feb. 22 through March 7 during which local restaurants offer special three-course meals. Devour Bloomington is organized by the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association to promote local restaurants. Twenty-two restaurants are participating with specials for dine-in and carry-out.
Gabby Brock, communications director for the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, said Devour Bloomington is a great way to support local businesses and interest customers in dining-in or carrying-out.
“Devour Bloomington has been around for a couple of years now,” Brock said. “It’s more important than ever that we have an event like this as our restaurants have faced enormous struggles over the past year dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this is hopefully going to give them a boost and customers coming to their doors.”
Holly Hawes, 36, has purchased special meals offered during the Devour Bloomington event at least twice before. Throughout the pandemic, Hawes said she has felt safer opting for carry-out meals, but she chose to purchase special meals through dine-in and take-out for this event. Hawes said in the past, special meals were only offered for dine-in customers.
“I have found it very encouraging that there’s so many carry-out options,” Hawes said.
Hawes said the restaurants she follows on social media and orders from are transparent with their safety precautions and reported COVID-19 cases. She said she feels an extra layer of security, since she has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Even when I was doing carry-out, I feel like the restaurants have been doing a great job with the precautions,” Hawes said.
Holly Lemna, 22, said she is opposed to the encouragement of dining in restaurants for this event but strongly supports the increased availability for carry-out and delivery.
“You want to go into a place that requires you to remove your mask in an airborne pandemic?” Lemna said.
The Owlery is one restaurant participating in the Devour Bloomington event, and it has been operating as carry-out only since August, Ginger Alford, the front of house manager, said.
Alford said she recognizes the number of customers that are eager to have the option to dine-in, and she still feels this event is helping promote their business.
“We try to expand our outreach to different people that maybe haven’t tried it before, and Devour definitely let’s you do that,” Alford said. “I was surprised by how popular it’s been and how people follow what restaurants are involved in Devour.”
FarmBloomington is one of the participating restaurants offering specials for dine-in and carry-out customers. FarmBloomington is offering a lunch special that includes the World’s Greatest BLT, garlic fries and a Hartzell gelato, front of house and events manager Zack Rody said.
Rody said he’s worked the Devour Bloomington event for the past three years.
“We’re excited to show off some of the best,” Rody said.
Rody said he believes FarmBloomington is operating in a safe manner for a reduced risk dine-in option.
Rody said the restaurant has reduced capacity, increased sanitization procedures, wellness checks and distancing protocols to ensure safety.
Rody said he is looking forward to the warmer weather, and the possibility of offering outdoor “European-style” seating. He said the restaurant is talking with the City of Bloomington to close sections of Kirkwood again for extra seating space.
“If students like that, they should let their state representatives know, because their voices are important,” he said.