Callers to Catherine’s Restaurant in Goshen during the last few days got some good news: the popular eatery was returning from vacation on Wednesday, Sept. 9, after being closed since Aug. 14.
But the time off wasn’t entirely a vacation. Rather, it was another stomach-lurching dip in what has been a roller coaster year for owner Stephen Serkes and his staff.
A family affair
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years,” Serkes said Tuesday as he prepped Catherine’s for reopening. “This is the hardest year ever. It’s all new.”
Serkes, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, established the Goshen mainstay in 1991. He named it for his maternal grandmother Catherine Gallagher O’Gara, who lived with the Serkes family when he was growing up in Long Island and had cooked for many rich families in her time.
Catherine’s was closed by the Covid-19 virus along with much of the economy in March. It instituted a brisk takeout business in June with Serkes’ whole family tending to the customers.
“Everybody,” he said, “pitches in.”
In late June, the restaurant resumed indoor dining, limited to 50 percent of maximum occupancy and tables separated a minimum of six feet from each other. Other state-imposed restrictions included rules for face covering worn by employees and patrons and strict disinfection requirements.
Aug. 14: ‘Until further notice’
The restaurant followed the rules, but on Aug. 14, Serkes posted on Facebook that “due to Covid-19 related concerns” Catherine’s would be closed “until further notice.”
Those concerns surfaced when Serkes, his wife Jennifer and 16-year-old son Daniel tested positive for Covid-19. His two college-age children, Stephen and Morgan, have tested negative.
The posting said that the business was mandated to follow federal and state protocols. “More importantly, the health and well-being of our employees and staff and first and foremost,” it added. “Stay healthy everyone and thank you for your understanding during these unprecedented times!”
Serkes, and his son were asymptomatic. “It wasn’t bad,’ he said. His wife had a mild fever. All three completed 14-day quarantines before taking a brief vacation.
‘Thanks for doing the right thing’
The restaurant’s fans were sympathetic:
“Thanks for always doing the right thing,” one Facebook poster said.
“We look forward to a meal again soon,” another wrote. “Thanks for always being awesome! We’ll be back as soon you open.”
Serkes said that “some people are shy” about dining indoors, but he doesn’t anticipate any difficulty in luring back his clientele.
Catherine’s will be serving only dinner for the time being. During the summer, it offered sidewalk barbecue during lunch and Serkes said it is looking for ways to deal with cold weather.
“Hopefully,” he said, “the virus will just go away.”