A slow but sure opening for restaurants’ banquet halls

No, this isn’t a used car lot — it’s the parking lot at The Caboose last Wednesday during a meeting that was held in the banquet hall. It was one of the first times since COVID-19 hit the area that the banquet hall was able to be utilized by a large group. Photo / Per Peterson

By Per Peterson

After the pandemic hit Minnesota about a year ago, the banquet hall at The Caboose fell silent.

It’s getting noisy again.

And that’s a good thing for owners John and Doug Edwards and Diane Fiegen.

Like all other restaurant owners in Minnesota, the hard-working trio has been constantly dealing with shutdowns, and ever-changing state pandemic guidelines for almost a year. More than that, they’ve dealt with the stress of trying to keep their business going.

Compared to many eating establishments, COVID-19 has hit The Caboose especially hard, considering its most valuable resource — the banquet hall has — up until three small events last week — been rendered useless. That, Fiegen said, has been the most difficult thing to deal with.

“That’s our bread and butter,” she said of the banquet hall. “We haven’t been able to do something like that for a year. Because it’s such a large facility, we were able to position them 6 feet apart. We tried to keep people in place. We served a lunch to them in their seats.”

Last Wednesday’s event drew 32 people, which is far below the number of people the banquet hall can accommodate, but it’s a start.

The Caboose is used to hosting numerous, much larger events like wedding receptions, major banquets and prom.

“Right now, the tables are 8 feet apart and the people are sitting 6 feet apart, so it took the whole room to get them in,” Fiegen said about last week’s event. “And we used a speaker system instead of them just talking; if they use a speaker system they don’t have to yell.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.