Jason Vaughn, the manager of the Madison Gardens restaurant, said he has been dreaming of re-opening Richmond’s longtime favorite since Gov. Andy Beshear ordered him to close its doors in mid-March.
Come Friday, May 22, his dream — and that of many other commonwealth entrepreneurs — will come true, as eateries are permitted to open their in-person dining at 33% capacity, not including outside patios.
“We are very excited to open, we are so ready,” Vaughn told The Register. “It has been way too long.”
When the mandatory closure was enacted, Madison Gardens — famous for its wings and trivia — kept up service through curbside and to-go orders.
“It was crazy, but good,” he said. “We have been very thankful to have the community rally behind us and keep us going this whole time.”
Since Beshear announced the re-opening guidelines, Vaughn said, each one was individually his goal to get the doors opened up.
“I have been watching other states ahead of time to see what was going to be expected,” he said. “We have been planning for a month, so we are very much ready. We were making sure that we were ready to re-open right out of the gate, and we have done too much to not.”
And ready they are, having brought back almost all of their staff to gear up for the big day.
Vaughn reported the restaurant has been working with the health department closely, and employees will be required to have a temperature check as well as wearing masks and gloves during their shift.
With a normal 232-person capacity, Madison Gardens can seat up to 129 total customers into the space with 76 seats available inside (33% capacity), and 53 seats available on the patio.
The customers who plan to be there for re-opening day and thereafter, the Gardens (as it is monikered) have rules of its own for their loyal patrons to follow.
Such as only one party being allowed in the doorway to await seating. If they are at capacity, the party’s phone numbers will be taken and contacted when an area is ready.
Additionally, there is no bar seating, no groups of 10 or more and only one person allowed in the bathroom at a time.
In terms of masks, the governor says to wear them when out at restaurants, but that it is the discretion of the patron to utilize their personal protective equipment.
Although he says these are different times, the Gardens will be serving up the same good food, drinks and atmosphere they have been for 35 years.
“We are going to do the best we can, but we ask that people be patient, but enjoy the atmosphere,” he said. “There has been a lot of remarkable change, and I don't want to lose the essence of who we were back then. While there is a lot that is new, it still holds onto the normal.”
But not all Madison County businesses are ready to open their doors to in-person dining for a number of reasons including limited seating, lack of supplies or customer and staff safety.
One of which is another Richmond favorite, Brady’s Sushi and Hibachi, owned by couple Wan and Wen Lin, who have decided to continue to offer delivery and pick-up options.
Previously, the sushi store closed down entirely for three weeks due to lack of access to vendors that fulfill their supply chain.
The couple also decided to close their second restaurant, Asian Fusion, shortly after its grand opening because of staffing and safety issues.
But now, although they are legally allowed to open, the couple has decided to remain operating for pick-up and delivery only for the safety of themselves and customers, as well as having limited space with only 33% capacity available.
“We have decided to not do the dining room,” Wan Lin said. “Our store is small enough, at 33% that is four tables. It is not worth it, and I don’t want people to get mad. Four tables — that could get filled up in 10 minutes.
“So if people are like, 'Let's go eat at Brady’s,' and we are already at max capacity, I just don't want to upset anybody.”
Customers will now be allowed to wait inside the restaurant to pick up their food, and the second restaurant, Asian Fusion will open for pick-up and delivery.
Below is a list of Madison County restaurants which will be open for dine-in, pickup or delivery.
Madison Gardens (Dine-in)
Casa Fiesta (Dine-in)
Cracker Barrel (Dine-in)
Nuevo Vallarta (Dine-in)
Apollos Pizzeria (patio re-opens May 25, pickup and delivery will resume)
Burgher Burger (pickup or delivery)
Brady’s Sushi and Hibachi (pickup or delivery)
Dreaming Creek Brewery (pickup)
Straight from Texas BBQ (pickup or delivery)
Babylon (pickup or delivery)
Boone Tavern (Dine-in)
KY Mountain Deli (Dine-in)
Noodle Nirvana (pickup and delivery)
Hole & Corner (pickup and delivery)
Native Bagel (pickup and delivery)
Hitz BBQ (pickup and delivery)
Papaleno's (pickup and delivery)
Apollos (pickup and delivery)
Proud Mary’s BBQ (Dine-in)
The Side Porch Cafe and Bakery (Dine-in)
This is not a complete list of restaurants in Madison County, Richmond or Berea.
Richmond Register Sports Editor Nathan Hutchinson contributed to this article.