Playa Bowls uses vibrant colors to market their menu in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. The store now has a 25% capacity for indoor seating and regular outdoor seating. (J24/Jessica Post)
In addition to its bowls, Playa Bowls offers a wide range of beverages and snacks in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Roar Organic is one of the many healthy choices the store offers in addition to granola bars, wellness shots, and poke bowls. (J24/Jessica Post)
Viviana Gonzalez and Daniel Reyes converse while Katelyn McNamara prepares cut strawberries in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Gonzalez is a store manager at Playa Bowls and works frequently throughout the week. (J24/Jessica Post)
Many indoor dining tables and the customer-loved ping pong table are closed off in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. The store was closed for only three weeks in March but quickly reopened for takeout. (J24/Jessica Post)
Casey Weiner portions the base of a coconut bowl onto a scale in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Many bases are made at the start of each shift and stored in a refrigerator to increase production speed. (J24/Jessica Post)
The coconut base is topped with granola and weighted once more in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. The final step is to top bowl with fruits and additional dressings such as peanut butter or honey. (J24/Jessica Post)
Katelyn McNamara reaches into a large bowl of washed strawberries in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. McNamara is one of a number of employees at Playa Bowls who attends Lehigh University (J24/Jessica Post)
Katelyn McNamara is hard at work, thinly slicing strawberries to be used as toppings in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. McNamara wears gloves and is extra aware of keeping her area sanitized in light of COVID-19. (J24/Jessica Post)
Freshly cut strawberries are placed into a Tupperware and stored to decrease time spent in the open in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Employees have their temperature taken before they come into work and must give up their shift if their temperature runs too high. (J24/Jessica Post)
Casey Weiner stands with a completed “Coco Craze” bowl in Bethlehem, Pa. on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Employees are required to wear masks and gloves at all times. (J24/Jessica Post)
Like all businesses, many South Bethlehem restaurants took a hit as a result of COVID-19. Playa Bowls, however, was able to work its way back into business and is slowly reopening.
With increased precautions, the restaurant was able to follow Pennsylvania state laws through each phase of reopening and now keeps a steady flow of customers.
“At first it was a really big difference because basically no one was allowed in the store and we were only doing takeout orders so it was really slow and not as many people were working.” said Viviana Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is one of a handful of store managers and usually works five times a week to keep an eye on employees
All employees are required to wear face masks and gloves in the store and on the job. Additionally, staff members must have their temperatures taken before they begin their shift. If their temperature reads 100.4 degrees or above they must give away their shifts for the week and immediately be tested for the virus.
To keep the location sanitary, Playa Bowls refused cash payments for the first few months following its reopening. They also put a stop to customer-engaging games such as ping pong and a variety of board games.
Gonzalez explained how the store as a whole is “a lot cleaner because we have to clean constantly and wipe down all the surfaces.”
Business has picked up a lot since phase 3 of reopening began in early June which means more employees can work and the store can begin to function better with the right precautions.
The store was only closed for about three weeks at the start of the pandemic and quickly reopened for takeout orders before opening its outdoor seating in May. The store is currently operating at 25% capacity for indoor seating and regular outdoor seating.
“I feel like us being busy always depended on the seasons because usually people come here more when it’s hot out so it usually slows down around this time anyway. I feel like I can’t say it was because of corona or because of it being colder out now that things have start to slow down” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said business usually picks up in the summer specifically because their outdoor seating is so colorful and inviting. The store has a playful beachy feel and brings in customers with a refurbished vintage looking van that provides additional seating.