102-year-old Montpelier restaurant has survived two pandemics

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MONTPELIER, VT- At the Wayside Restaurant in Montpelier, the pandemic seems all too familiar.

The Wayside opened in July of 1918 by founder Effie Ballou. That fall, the Spanish flu ravaged the world. Brian Zecchinelli, co-owner of the 102-year-old restaurant, imagines businesses in 1918 followed a protocol similar to what is happening with the coronavirus.

“The safety of our staff was our top priority,” he said. “so as things progressed we felt more comfortable about tackling reopening safely,” said Zecchinelli, who said the Wayside kept open offering take-out meals.

Zecchinelli and his wife and business partner, Karen, says making sure the restaurant was as safe as possible goes beyond just saving the business. In 1918, Zecchinelli’s grandfather died of the Spanish flu.

“So, it was close to my heart, and I realized that we are going to do this safe, we are going to reopen safely and today we are striving to be the safest restaurant in Vermont,” said Zecchinelli.

The restaurant did a number of safety improvements in their dining room, including touchless handles and faucets, dividers between tables and additional exits.

“It’s been a tough time for all restaurants,” he said. “Everyone been hurt very bad by this pandemic, but we are in a position with the reopening of our dining room at 50 percent capacity to sustain all our employees.”

Patrons at the restaurant say they feel safe and couldn’t wait to come back.

“It’s like a staple in the community for sure,” said Vermonter Abby Fusco. “The servers are fabulous Brian’s a wonderful man. Karen is a wonderful women, and so it’s just a great place.”

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