Concerns about the spreading COVID-19 pandemic have caused restaurants everywhere to adapt, shuttering some completely and forcing others to funnel traffic through drive-thru windows.
That threw a wrench into one of the biggest fundraisers for a local charity, as the Knights of Columbus had to move its fish fry to drive-thru-only service.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had to do it,” Grand Knight Steve Batusic said of the restriction.
The event, which takes place every Friday during Lent and is set to conclude April 3, usually features drive-thru service anyway, but Batusic worried that closing the dining room could have a negative impact on turnout.
“We normally do pretty good with the drive-thru,” Batusic said, noting that usually accounts for about a third of each week’s haul.
On Friday, by the time service began at 4 p.m., several dozen cars snaked around the building, onto 30th and Jefferson streets, reducing traffic to one lane despite the double lanes set up in the Knights’ parking lot.
Joe Hobbs, of Paducah, waited in line for about half an hour before placing his order.
“You like to support your restaurants right now, but I like to support this because it’s a charity,” said Hobbs, who’s been frequenting the fish fries for the past few years.
Hobbs said he’s become accustomed to ordering takeout with concerns about the spread of the virus.
“It’s good fish, good shrimp,” he said. He added with a laugh, “Sometimes my wife tells me it’s cheaper to go out and pick up a couple meals than fix a meal at home.”
Batusic said the group planned for a large turnout Friday, but concerns about the virus caused some members who would normally staff the event to stay home.
The fish fries usually bring in several thousand dollars, which then gets distributed among local charities.
“This is our main fundraiser to help these people out,” Batusic said.
He said he could only hope the restrictions didn’t hamper turnout too severely.
“Tonight will probably tell us a lot about what to expect next week,” he said.
“We’re praying we have a good night.”