Local businesses slowly reopen in Downtown Wilkes-Barre


Sara Ross

Instanbul Grill, among other locations, has reopened and is offering outdoor seating.

With Luzerne County having transitioned into the green phase, more businesses in Wilkes-Barre are beginning to reopen. 

In Downtown Wilkes-Barre, the Public Square near Wilkes University is a popular spot for residents and students in the community. Being closed for months has impacted businesses that were not essential during the early stages of the pandemic, leading to financial losses.

There have been reports of the Mexican restaurant El Zocalo closing, along with a thrift store owned by the Volunteers of America on South Main Street. Volunteers of America regional president Jodina Hicks claimed that it became difficult to keep up with the high lease after being closed for so long. 

However, efforts have been made to alleviate these financial strains. 

The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce is assisting local businesses’ reopening efforts through their three-step online initiative, Luzerne County Ready. 

They can view all federal, state and local guidelines and take the pledge to become a “Luzerne County Ready Business.” Through this designation, they are required to follow proper social distancing, sanitation and cleaning protocols. Taking this pledge also enables small businesses that sell personal protective equipment (PPE) to become designated PPE providers.

Vice president Lindsay Griffin of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber explained that it is beneficial for these community businesses to take the pledge, as it encourages people to shop local and frequent these smaller establishments for supplies.

“We also wanted a place for all local businesses to easily find government, CDC and OSHA guidelines, and we have outlined measures for each type of industry,” said Griffin.

This includes restaurants, an industry that has been hard-hit. At the beginning of the state shut-down, restaurants in our area temporarily ended dine-in services and only offered takeout and delivery.

Restaurants can now seat customers inside, with tables spaced at least six feet apart. All customers are also required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. 

Other establishments are taking advantage of the summer weather by using their outdoor seating. Restaurants such as Rodano’s and Franklin’s have been providing this option for customers. 

Junior sociology student Justin Glidden is one of the many people eager to return to normal life.

“Now that businesses are open again, I’m hoping to eat out at my favorite restaurants,” said Glidden.

Another aspect of the Wilkes-Barre community came back on July 25 as well. Mayor George Brown led the reopening of the Public Square’s Farmers Market, enabling local farmers to sell their fruits and vegetables every Thursday. 

The City of Wilkes-Barre elaborated further on the market’s reopening in a press release, stating, “As the market is outdoors, masks are recommended, but if social distancing is not possible, a mask is required.”

The Osterhout Free Library has also joined the number of businesses reopening in Wilkes-Barre. The library is offering a convenient way of no-contact pickup. Anyone looking to pick up books can call the library between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday. 

The Wilkes-Barre Family YMCA has now reopened to members and will operate at 50 percent capacity with limited hours. The facility has reopened its childcare programs, pool, summer day camp and outdoor group exercises.

Although businesses have reopened to the public, the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is still lingering. Glidden feels it is important to remember the virus is still a present concern.

“This doesn’t mean we get to go back to our full normal selves,” he said. “We must continue to practice social distancing and frequent hand washing to keep the spread of the virus contained.”

As the green phase continues, more businesses are reopening in Wilkes-Barre, but with cautionary measures in place.