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Middletown restaurants continuing to make tough decisions as one announces closure for 2020

Gracie's restaurant in downtown Middletown will close until 2021 after this weekend due to difficult conditions caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, some other Middletown restaurants are managing to survive and thrive in the uncertainty. FILE PHOTO


Gracie’s restaurant is now open on Central Avenue in Middletown. The menu is described as big city comfort food with items such as seared salmon, fried chicken, Berkshire pork chop and meatloaf. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Gracie's restaurant in downtown Middletown will close until 2021 after this weekend due to difficult conditions caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. However, some other Middletown restaurants are managing to survive and thrive in the uncertainty. FILE PHOTO Gracie’s restaurant is now open on Central Avenue in Middletown. The menu is described as big city comfort food with items such as seared salmon, fried chicken, Berkshire pork chop and meatloaf. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The announcement that a downtown Middletown restaurant will close for the rest of 2020 comes as others are pushing ahead with cautious optimism by improvising and adapting to changes caused by the coronavirus owners said.

Ami Vitori, co-owner and general manager of Gracie’s restaurant, 1131 Central Ave., announced this weekend will be the last regular dining service for the rest of 2020. Vitori said the pandemic has made it “extremely difficult to operate the business.”

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“The inconsistencies that have been created in all of our lives from COVID-19 are too much to manage for our restaurant financially,” Vitori said. “We have worked hard to pivot with take-out, Vitori’s Market, and slimming down staffing and menus, but the pandemic has made it too erratic and unpredictable to make it financial feasible to continue at this time.”

She said some of Gracie’s menu items in Vitori’s Market will continue to be sold, and the business will continue to book private events and catering and host some ticketed coursed dinners.

“I want to thank everyone who has been a part of this beautiful experience so far,” Vitori said.

Vitori opened Gracie’s in June 2017 in the former TV Middletown Building,as part of her family’s Torchlight Pass dining and retail destination location that includes a boutique hotel. She is also a member of Middletown City Council.

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Other locally owned restaurants in Middletown have made big changes. Some have cut staffing or operating days and hours to stay open.

John Langhorne, owner of the The Swire Inn, 64 S. Main St., said, “business has been amazing.”

He said the restaurant did well during the take-out period when the inside dining was shut down by the state. Langhorne said the business has worked hard on costs and has kept their staff of about 23 people working.

“We’re doing good and we’re beating our expectations,” he said.

Donnie Osborne, owner of The Jug, 3510 Central Ave. and Shaddock’s Pizza, 4713 Central Ave., said it was “awful” to hear about Vitori’s decision to close for the rest of 2020.

“As far as The Jug and Shaddock’s are concerned, they are set up as carry-outs so it’s been business as usual,” Osborne said. “We lost some of our margin due to higher food costs.”

However, the uncertainty has put a planned sports bar expansion for Shaddock’s on hold.

Osborne said third-party deliveries also “went through the roof,” which also helped his bottom line.

“We’re hanging in there, but we’re bracing ourselves for the next slap in the face,” he said.

Heather Gibson, owner of Triple Moon Coffee Company, 1100 Central Ave., said operating has become much harder because of protocols, and the business is now closed two days a week. She is using a drive-thru window to serve coffee, lattes and food to stay in business. She said she lost some staff because some are concerned about COVID-19 or passing it to an older relative.

“We’re not thinking about closing,” she said. “We’re no-where near that.”

Gibson said business has grown every year since itopened in 2014.

“Everyone is changing their business model,” Gibson said. “She (Vitori) was smart to close because she’ll have the opportunity to come back stronger. I know it was difficult for her, but she made the right decision.”