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West End Theatre District New Beginnings: The beat goes on at The Shanty on 19th

“You have to learn to adapt,” says Joe Tatasciore on how he has shepherded the Shanty on 19th through the obstacles thrown his way by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Everything has changed. ‘Restaurant 101’ is no longer,” says Tatasciore, who has owned the Shanty on 19th for eight years.

The popular establishment at 613 N. 19th St., Allentown, has again been able to provide fine dining and live music after the Commonwealth relaxed some of its pandemic rules.

The shutdowns to contain the virus community spread hit the Shanty on 19th particularly hard, resulting in lost revenue and staff layoffs.

“I have five people. We’ve been working every day that we’ve been open,‘” says Tatasciore.

He explains that, though the restaurant is closed Mondays, he and his employees spend the day cleaning and sanitizing. They also continuously clean when open to the public, including disinfecting surfaces between patron visits.

“Once a month, I have a company that comes in and sanitizes the entire place,” Tatasciore adds.

Three tents were set up for outdoor dining during the summer. Two tents, equipped with heaters, are still in use.

“It’s a bad situation that we’re in right now, but we’re making the best of it,” Tatasciore says. “We have sort of found our own niche here.”

“Music has actually kept us going,” he says.

“The musicians, the entertainers, they have been fantastic,” says Tatasciore. “They have been working with us as far as price goes.”

He regrets that the larger-size bands he booked in the past have been unable to perform because of social distancing rules.

During warmer weather, the musicians performed outside. When winter arrived, the entertainment was moved back indoors.

The Shanty on 19th is restricted to 25 percent capacity by COVID mandate.

Although the audiences are smaller, they are still able to enjoy blues, oldies and a mix of musical genres. Regular performers include Steve Brosky; John Cannavo’s Open Mic, 3-6 p.m. Sundays; Nomadic Soulz trio (Diana Noelle Barber, Billy Trexler, Warren Snead); Chelsea Lyn Meyer; the Dynamic Duo (Jake Kaligas, Michael Rauscher), and Vinyl Persuasion.

Tatasciore acknowledges that he received help from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The loans were available through the U.S. Small Business Administration. “What they give us is peanuts,” he says, compared to what he would have made prior to the pandemic shutdowns and rules.

“Let us open,” Tatasciore declares. He would like to see the Commonwealth further lift restrictions. “We lose money when we’re not open.”

For Shanty customers who come in for the homemade fish and chips and a variety of other menu choices, he says, “Wear your masks when you come in. Wear your masks when you get up.”

Meals can also be ordered and delivered via Seamless, GrubHub and DoorDash.

“The West End is a tight group of people,” says Tatasciore.

He explains that, in addition to the rapport he enjoys with loyal customers, he and the other restaurant owners in the vicinity are friends. The closeness of the community is something Tatasciore savors.

And he is encouraged to see people are “finally starting to come back out.”

Information: www.theshantyon19th.com; 610-841-0150

“West End Theatre District: New Beginnings” is an ongoing series about how some of the restaurants, businesses and theaters in Allentown’s West End Theatre District are coping with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER Because of staff reductions resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, Shanty on 19th owner Joe Tatasciore pitches in to tend bar, as well as cook and clean.