Food Service Workers Reflect on Lamont Extending Restaurant, Business Curfew

Kelly Langevin , Managing Editor

Governor Ned Lamont extended the curfew for Connecticut restaurants from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. last week.  Since the pandemic began, food service workers have faced numerous setbacks; the extension for some comes as a relief.

In his announcement regarding restaurants, Lamont cited recent COVID-19 numbers that showed a positivity rate of about 3.8 percent. Hospitalizations also decreased to 912, the lowest it has been in several weeks.

Angela Demonte, who has been a food server at various Connecticut restaurants for over six years, said she is “really excited that Lamont pushed restaurants curfew back to 11 p.m.”

When restaurants first shut down back in March, Demonte was out of her job until further notice, which she said took a toll on her financially. Even when restaurants were allowed to reopen, limited capacity and closing at 9:30 p.m. continued to impact Demonte.

“Everything is so up in the air when you are a server. The only thing that I know is if the restaurant is busy then I’ll make money. Closing at 9:30 means I don’t have my late crowd anymore,” Demonte stated in a previous interview in November of 2020.

“To me closing early doesn’t really make sense. It hurts my paycheck so much,” the Wood-N-Tap server stated.

Demonte said in her November interview that she moved out when she was 18-years-old and has remained a food server to help pay for her car and schooling. According to Demonte, the current climate as a food server is much more difficult as she is making much less than she used to.

“How am I supposed to be able to go back to school if I can’t be working and saving? How am I supposed to pay for my brand new car that I got two years ago? It just puts me in a pickle when I have to dip into my savings,” Demonte said. “It’s just really scary not knowing what’s going to happen. I went from a full-time job to a part-time job working six shifts usually and now I’m down to two.”

With Lamont allowing restaurants to remain open later, things are beginning to look brighter for Demonte.

“I have been very fortunate to receive more hours at work because I now work at two Wood-N-Tap’s and have the ability to pick up more shifts which has helped immensely. I am at least making more than I’m spending each month,” Demonte said. “With the 11 p.m. curfew, it means we can stay open later and I’ll be able to make a bit more money as well. I also don’t have to rush people out and cash out their checks so they can be out of the building by 10 p.m. I won’t be rushed out of restaurants either so that’s definitely beneficial to my social life.”

Timothy Diebolt, a food server at Chili’s in New Britain, expressed both positive and negative sentiments of the extended curfew.

“The main pro is I can make more per shift. The con is I have to stay awake later and I’m more physically exhausted by the end of the night. As a college student, it’s useful getting a full night’s sleep, but as a young adult living on [my] own, it does feel better getting the opportunity to make more money,” Diebolt, who studies theater performance at Central, said. “Financial stability is not the key to happiness but it is a trigger for possible mental problems so all in all I am feeling a lot better now that Chili’s has returned to normal hours.”

Unlike Demonte, Diebolt was able to pick up to-go shifts when restaurants were not allowing customers to dine-in.

Diebolt said he was not scheduled for the first three to four weeks of lockdown due to not being trained for to-go. Once trained, Diebolt was able to work almost six days a week.

“I [worked] from April through June in order to subsidize my savings account; an account I had almost completely blown through. March of 2020 was one of the most stressful months of my adult life,” Diebolt said. “Once we could serve in person again, I started to feel much safer about my financial situation, and now going back to normal, I know the added hours will be worth extra cash.”

For Demonte, making more money isn’t the only thing she is looking forward to.

“I hope the new curfew helps bring us back to normal because I really do miss my job without the mask and plexiglass between me and my guests,” Demonte said. “I feel this pandemic has made restaurant service impersonal which is awful because being a waitress the goal is to make people feel welcomed and make them want to come back and that social skill is lacking more and more by my inability to even smile. Over time guests start to not care anymore because that’s not their main concern when they come in to eat.”