The coronavirus pandemic could not keep customers away from Gordy's Hi-Hat as it opened for its 60th season on Wednesday, April 8.
Jennifer Gist, 39, and her daughter Ava, 12, drove from Esko to grab lunch.
“Ava has a tradition to come every year on the first day at 10 a.m.,” Jennifer said.
Ava ordered a pizza burger and a cookies-and-cream shake, as a part of her tradition. The Gists said they are just happy that Gordy’s Hi-Hat finally opened.
They weren't alone. The Cloquet restaurant's opening day was delayed by three weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and customers were ready. People lined up their cars more than 30 minutes before Gordy's Hi-Hat opened on Wednesday.
To keep employees and customers from spreading the virus, the restaurant is going back in time to when carhops waited on customers. Once again customers stay in their vehicles and wait for servers to come to them.
Signs with numbers are set up around the building to keep the system organized. Servers wear black gloves and hustle over to take orders. They place the order number on the windshield of the vehicle, then disappear into the building. They also wipe down credit cards before giving them back to customers.
Second generation owner Dan Lundquist said servers started taking orders before the 10 a.m. opening when they saw vehicles lining up early.
He said 40% of their business is carry-out, so the new measures to protect customers and employees aren't too big an adjustment.
“There’s been a few kinks, but it’s going well,” Lundquist said.
This year Gordy’s did not give away the traditional opening day T-shirts to the first 60 customers, so they could focus on the service.
Carlton resident Diane Simpson said she has been visiting Gordy’s Hi-Hat for a long time. Simpson is laid off from her job at Black Bear Casino and Resort and said she has been going a little stir crazy at home. She enjoyed the carhop throwback.
“We like everything, especially the onion rings,” Simpson said. “It reminds me of the old days when A&W did this (carhop). It’s kind of neat.”