GREENWOOD — Furloughed workers are beginning to return to work as Indiana rolls out stage two of the state's reopening plan.
One local server, like many others in the hospitality industry, had to find a new place to work during the pandemic.
For the last eight weeks, tables at Smokey Bones in Greenwood have been empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting this week, however, the restaurant is back open, practicing social distancing to keep customers and employees safe.
"It's been crazy, not just as GM but as a person," Stefanie Krukowski, general manager of Smokey Bones in Greenwood, said. "I don't think any of us really expected this. It's very surreal."
Krukowski started as a cook 10 years ago. Now, as the general manager, she's in charge of her entire staff during a pandemic.
"We are a family here so we want to see each other," Krukowski said.
Like the leader of a family does, Krukowski looked out for employees during the pandemic. She helped them find temporary jobs, offered meals and even called them in to help clean.
"It made us feel appreciated and that's why I wanted to come back," Beau Thomas said.
Thomas only worked at the restaurant for a month when the dining room closed. He found temporary work at Aldi but wished he was still serving.
"I was still devastated because I was so excited to start working here at Smokey Bones," Thomas said.
Now that the restaurant is back open, 12 servers are once again on the schedule, including Thomas.
"It's definitely a big relief," Thomas said. "I'm excited we are open."
At the start of every shift he gets his temperature taken and before clocking in he answers a COVID-19 screening.
"We have new protocols we have to follow while social distancing and it's definitely different but I'm excited and eager to be back and serving our community," Thomas said.
"I want to go up and hug them and everything and say, 'Oh my gosh it's finally some kind of normalcy,'" Krukowski said. "It's definitely good seeing their faces for sure."
As the restaurant continues to get busier, Krukowski hopes to bring back even more servers.