Venerable Southern restaurant The Colonnade reopens for dine-in service and curbside takeout Friday, July 31, after a four-month closure brought on by the ongoing health crisis. Aside from a fried chicken pop-up on Mother’s Day run from the restaurant’s Cheshire Bridge Road parking lot, the 93-year-old Atlanta institution has remained closed since the end of March.
Owner Jodi Stallings, who took over the Colonnade from her father following his retirement, says she chose to shut down rather than pivot to takeout four months ago due to the amount of work involved in shifting a restaurant of this size and its staff of 46 to a full-blown to-go operation.
“Our operation is entirely too big,” says Stallings. “[The staff were] getting unemployment. How do you say you come back and you can’t come back?” Instead, she opted to allow the Colonnade to remain afloat on government assistance and sent every employee home in March with a paycheck and some of the leftover inventory from the restaurant, including prime rib, flats of eggs, and toilet paper. Many people on staff have been with the Colonnade for years. According to Stallings, all of the Colonnade’s employees have chosen to return.
Now, after weeks of cleaning, fine-tuning, and learning how to work service and run the kitchen as safely as possible, the Colonnade is reopening to the public. Stallings says she been receiving calls and emails from people for months asking when the Colonnade would reopen because they “need fried chicken.” She’s still not sure how all of these people got her cell phone number. Several Colonnade regulars ate at the restaurant three or four times a week prior to the pandemic.
Starting Friday, the Colonnade plans to offer dine-in service and curbside takeout with an abbreviated menu that includes the restaurant’s sought-after fried chicken and prime rib. The early bird special is being discontinued for now. Keeping the menu simple and dividing the staff into teams between the dining room and takeout service helps lessen the stress and strain on employees.
Plexiglass dividers have been installed around the service bar and at the cashier and host stands. There are wall-mounted hand sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant. Stallings and her staff will be wearing face masks, and she’s strongly encouraging patrons of the Colonnade to do the same before being seated at their table.
In order to minimize contact, people wishing to dine at the restaurant check into their table using a dedicated phone line. They can then either wait in their car or grab a drink and sit on the patio while waiting to be called. Dining room service now features tables spaced six feet apart, single-use paper menus, and disposable condiment cups.
“Our capacity in the bar is 42, and we’ve moved that around a bit,” Stallings says. “The dining room’s capacity is 165, but tables will be six feet apart, and we will also be using the banquet room.”
There are separate phone lines for checking on the restaurant’s wait times and for calling in takeout orders. The parking lot includes six spaces designated for curbside pickup.
While operating the iconic restaurant may not be as it was before the health crisis began in March, hospitality remains at the core of the Colonnade. Stallings hopes people will be patient as she and her staff adjust and make tweaks to the newly launched takeout service and running a restaurant during a pandemic.
“We have to get back in the saddle in some form or fashion. We’re in the hospitality industry, so we miss interacting with people.”
Open Wednesday - Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. To order curbside takeout, call 404-874-5642.