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Buckeye and Alburtis taverns adjust

Restaurants across Pennsylvania had to shutter their dining areas because of Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order to close non-essential businesses in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

To keep the food service businesses afloat while protecting workers and customers during the Red Phase, eateries were permitted to offer take-out and delivery only.

With Lehigh and Northampton counties moving from the Red Phase to the Yellow Phase June 5, outdoor dining, but not indoor dining, is allowed.

For restaurateur Terry Bender, the pandemic packs a double challenge. He and his wife Hope own the Buckeye Tavern, Lower Macungie Township. and the Alburtis Tavern and Lodge, Alburtis.

The Benders opened the Buckeye Tavern at 3741 Brookside Road in 2008, then successfully reopened in 2017, two years after a disastrous fire gutted the landmark 1735 stone building.

The Buckeye Tavern, well-known for its signature black diamond steaks, had provided a comfortable casual and fine dining experience for patrons, but had to shift gears quickly to survive in what is now the “new normal.”

By offering carryout and access to Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash delivery services, as well as having a loyal customer base, Bender has kept the business thriving. The main dining room resembles a beverage outlet so that wine, beer and bottled non-alcoholic refreshments can be ordered with dinner.

As the business remains open seven days a week, CDC-recommended precautions are employed while preparing food and serving customers.

The Alburtis Tavern and Lodge opened its doors in 2013 at 106 S. Main St., Alburtis. The historic brick building was the former home of the Iron Horse Restaurant.

“The business there has dipped,” says Bender about the now-closed dining area that is suited to dinner theater and for catering parties and receptions.

Whitney Houston tribute shows were recently postponed, casualities of the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, these type of events sold out, according to Bender.

Upstairs, there are no vacancies for the dozen hotel rooms rented on a weekly or monthly basis. “There is a waiting list,” says Bender.

Back at the Buckeye Tavern, a new drive-through and waiting area for carryout customers and delivery drivers is under construction to handle the expanding takeout business. Cocktails-to-go are offered. Outdoor deck dining is available at both restaurants.

Bender expressed gratitude for “generous” community support for both restaurants.

“I’ve got to go with the flow.” says Bender as he looks forward to the Green Phase.

Information: www.buckeyetavern.com; www.alburtistavern.com

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIERBuckeye Tavern owner Terry Bender successfully adapted his business model to handle the challenges of the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. Copyright - &Copy; Ed Courrier