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Outdoor seating a plus for Chick-A-Dee

Bill Hird, owner of the Chick-A-Dee of Lewiston restaurant on Lisbon Street, raises one of the umbrellas on an outdoor table in the side parking lot of the building. Behind him is a large tent that covers additional tables. Chick-A-Dee can seat about 45 people in the outdoor area, with seating for more inside the building. (Tsukroff photo)

By Nathan Tsukroff

Outdoor seating is new for the Chick-A-Dee of Lewiston restaurant on Lisbon Street, and owner Bill Hird said he loves it.

While restrictions on indoor seating due to the COVID 19 have impacted the restaurant, like all other restaurants across the state,“That outside seating has been a plus for us!” Hird said.

Chick-A-Dee of Lewiston, which sits on the main road between Lisbon and Lewiston, closed its doors completely for three weeks after the initial state-mandated shutdown on March 17, 2020, then started offering takeout again “from a table in the parking lot,” Hird said. Doors were opened again June 1, with very limited seating. In the meantime, Hird received permission from the State of Maine for outdoor seating.

The restaurant’s side parking lot now has individual tables with umbrellas, along with a large tented seating area. This outdoor area “was a life-saver for us,” Hird said, with seating for about 45 guests.

The outdoor area has been so successful that “now I’m going to apply for a permit to have a permanent deck built out there,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ll let me do it, but I’m going to plan on it, because it’s gone over so well.”

The tent is set up and taken down daily, Hird said. “It’s a lot of work to set it up every morning, but it’s been worth it, it really has!” He plans to serve guests outdoors as long as the weather allows.

Indoor seating is still only at 50% from before the pandemic. With three rooms, Chick-A-Dee of Lewiston could seat as many as 200 guests, but now a maximum of 50 people per room are allowed by the current state regulations. The back room can normally seat up to 75, the middle room up to 25, and the main room about 100. “On a Friday night, we can have upwards of 100 people in here,” between all three rooms, Hird said.

A small bar area off the main room currently has seating for only two pairs of guests. “We’ve lost four tables in here,” Hird said, due to the need for the six-foot social-distancing required by pandemic regulations.

The restaurant is a spin-off from the original Chick-A-Dee Restaurant on Auburn Road (Route 4) in Turner that was owned by Hird’s father. Hird said he opened the restaurant in Lewiston 14 years ago, and now serves lunch and dinner “seven days a week.”

The Turner restaurant closed in 2012 after more than 70 years in business, and the building is now home to a restaurant called Terry & Maxine’s.

Chick-A-Dee of Lewiston always offered take-out service, and has seen a doubling of take-out orders during the pandemic, Hird said. With the opening of indoor dining in June, “It was kind of a slow (start), but I am finding more people are coming in, now. The majority of business is still take-out, though.”

He said the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) program from the Small Business Administration “helped us a lot” by paying for payroll and utilities for eight weeks. He only lost two people from his wait-staff, and saw the return of his full kitchen staff. “I’m really, really, happy for that!”

About 47 people work at the restaurant, including Hird’s wife, Lisa, their two sons, Tom and Matt, and their daughter, Jamie.

Hird said he doesn’t see a return to pre-pandemic conditions “any time soon. I don’t see us at 100% capacity until at least next spring. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m seeing. And so I’m going to lose the outside in maybe another month, it’s going to be too cold to eat outside. So, yeah, that worries me, because it’s quite a bit of business each week outside.” He said he’s hopeful that more people will want to come inside his restaurant.

Hird said he knows of “quite a few businesses” that have been shut down due to problems caused by the restrictions under the pandemic. “I hope it gets better soon, because I think it’s a shame they got shut down because of this.”

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