After more than six months of dark days, the lights of Round Up Cafe will soon shine again.
The landmark Whalley diner is set to reopen in a few weeks, following its COVID-caused closure last spring.
“We will be reopening right around the first week of November, or maybe that last week of October,” said longtime manager Tanya Abendroth.
“We’re just getting the booths all set up with higher backs on the seats, and there’s going to be plastic on each booth, to try to protect the customers as much as we can, and the staff. So it’s going to look a little different, yeah.”
For around 60 years, the Round Up has been owned and operated by the Springenatic family.
Come February, Abendroth will mark 45 years of managing the mid-block eatery.
Recently, it wasn’t clear to customers when, or if, the Round Up would reopen after its extended closure.
“We knew we were reopening, we just didn’t know exactly when,” Abendroth underlined. “We had tried to get someone to (renovate) our booths in June already, but he kept putting us off, so now we’re really trying to push him hard to get it done.
“There were some ups and downs,” during the shutdown. “Some depression,” she continued.
“The majority of employees will be back,” Abendroth said. “One cook has gone back to school so she’ll only be working on weekends, and the servers will be back, except one. She works part-time in a care home so she cannot work in a restaurant with COVID around. Basically we’ll all be back, so that’s something to look forward to.”
In “normal” times the restaurant’s capacity is 50 people, and the target is to keep it to that number, no fewer.
While physical distancing might be a challenge in such tight quarters, Abendroth said the immediate future looks bright.
“We’re trying to have use of every table,” she said. “We’ve had all the approvals from the health inspector and everything. It’s all done through them, so it’s good.”
To start, breakfast and lunch will be served from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., not the usual 5 p.m. closing time.
“We just don’t know how busy it’s going to be in the beginning,” Abendroth said. “I’m sure, almost positive, that the weekends will be really busy, but during the week, I don’t know. Like, the phones have been ringing constantly and everything, and I’ve been here almost every day, doing all the book work and stuff. There’s still bills to pay and everything else.”
Shara Nixon, part of a five-woman team that published a book about the Round Up earlier this year, is thrilled by the restaurant’s return.
“We’re just losing so much of our identity as a city,” Nixon said. “It’s all strip malls. Where is the individualty, the sense of community?… We have to fight to preserve the things we love. We have to be careful and support places like this or we’ll lose them forever.”
The Round Up, which occupies the Goodmanson building opened in 1949, sits on prime property that will certainly be redeveloped one day – but not just yet.
“There are the three properties – where we are, and then Goldie (Springenatic) and family own next door and then there’s the empty lot too,” Abendroth noted. “Goldie’s not ready to sell yet. I kept asking her because we didn’t know what was going to happen with it. You know, are you selling? She says, ‘Tanya, as long as you stay, we’ll be running.’ It’ll be up as long as I’m here, I guess.”
Diner history is covered in the soft-cover book, Stories From the Round Up Café, assembled by Nixon, Jude Campbell, Val Watson, Lucie Matich and Pamela DeJong. The 300 copies of the book quickly sold out after its March 1 launch, Nixon said, and now a “pre-buy” fundraising campaign may be launched in order to print more.
“We’ll wait for the restaurant to reopen, to talk to (owner) Goldie (Springenatic) first, then we hope to get that done.”