LAOTTO, Ind. (WFFT) - Pickup options replace traditional 'wining and dining' this holiday season for two northeast Indiana wineries.
“It’s definitely not been the best year we’ve ever had by any means, but we’re making it through,” said Country Heritage Winery operations manager Ashlee Baumgartner.
Baumgartner says she and her staff have adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic since having to close their doors in March.
“They’re getting used to changes all the time," said Baumgartner. "It’s not easy for everyone to adapt, but we’re making it work.”
After reopening in April, Baumgartner says Country Heritage operated by primarily seating customers outside, but allowing limited indoor seating to abide within Governor Eric Holcomb's Back on Track plan to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
“We installed air purifiers, we ensured that every table is six feet apart," said Baumgartner. "There’s also a 6-person restriction limit we make sure we’re abiding by.”
As of Thursday, the winery switched to a carryout or curbside pickup only model to minimize person-to-person contact since Governor Holcomb released his recent executive order notifying Hoosiers of rising COVID-19 cases.
Both Baumgartner and Two EE's Winery owner Eric Harris agree that holiday months bring an influx of customers, most expecting a dining experience.
“We weren’t forced to change to a carryout only model," said Harris. "We could still legally serve people on-premise but we made that change prior to it being made for us.”
Harris says the Two EE's switched to a carryout only option on Wednesday a choice to protect both staff and customers from the virus.
He says most customers responded positively to the onsite consumption suspension, many ordering the popular "slushee pouches" developed when they first closed for the pandemic in April, soon reopening in June.
“There were some people that were a little disappointed because they’re used to a family tradition of coming here and enjoying wine onsite,” said Harris.
He says he empathizes with them, "but we only want you here if it’s going to be safe and healthy.”