Outside of hospitals, perhaps no place in American society felt the merciless onslaught of the coronavirus more acutely than our beloved restaurant industry. Seemingly overnight, once-booming businesses were reduced to crowdfunding campaigns to stay afloat. On social media, photos of food gave way to images of sanitary materials, which gave way to takeout trays, which finally gave way to calls for donations.

Restaurants that were the bedrock of community gatherings became places of contactless pickups, and servers brought food to our cars with nitrile gloves that made them look like extras in a bad science fiction movie. No matter how necessary, these changes were painful. Though state laws have been adjusted to give restaurants a fighting chance to survive, the future for many remains far from certain.

We all love a traditional restaurant week, where cities and towns hold annual celebrations with prix fixe meals and special menus to pack people into their eateries. Well, this was the restaurant week from hell.

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at the Bedford Street Diner on March 14, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Ackerman said, "Normally at this time all of our tables would be full and have customers waiting to be seated. But with COVID-19 pandemic, and Stamford's limiting seating capacity for area restaurants to half, it's affecting the revenue of small business owners."

March 13 — Friday the 13th

Social media accounts for restaurants across the state continue to highlight their amped-up sanitation practices amid decreased attendance. Instead of pictures of food there are photos of staff members with cleaning supplies, and detailed accounts of how table surfaces are being cleaned regularly and sick employees are being told to stay home.

A Thursday email from chef Tyler Anderson, who runs numerous restaurants in the Hartford and New Haven areas, mentioned removing tables from dining rooms to create added space between diners. All these measures are meant to alleviate fears, but it starts to feel like a restaurant apocalypse is underway.

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Branford, Connecticut - Monday, March 23, 2020: Dino Maniatis, owner of the Hornet's Nest Deli in Branford, a breakfast, lunch and catering restaurant, peers out the pickup window near a sign that reads "Say no to the virus pickup window" at his eatery because of the Covid-19 / Coronavirus pandemic.

March 14 — Takeout takes over

Realizing that many customers do not want to eat out no matter how often tables are being wiped down, restaurants start offering contactless pickup options. The razor-thin profit margins of the industry are already being strained and it’s clear things are only going to get worse. Most eateries remain open despite the growing threat of COVID-19, but some move exclusively to takeout.

Bill Taibi, owner of Kawa Ni, Jesup Hall and The Whelk in Westport, where the virus has taken root early, announces his restaurants are moving to takeout only. “At this point we're not feeling comfortable anymore with letting people inside of our restaurants,” he says in a video message posted to social media. “The health and safety of our staff is paramount at this point. And we have to make tough decisions.”

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Staff at Sedona restaurant including kitchen manager Jeremy Fernandez pack up take out and delivery meals Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Norwalk, Conn. The Governor had closed dining rooms for eating establishments and also closed all bars.

March 15 — Beware the Ides of March

Word is spreading that restaurants in the state will soon be prohibited from serving diners inside. The great pivot to takeout, which has already begun, intensifies. Some restaurants reduce and revamp their menus in an attempt to make them more pickup friendly. They offer discounted gift cards and various perks to incentivize takeout. The layoffs in the industry have already begun and it’s clear more are on the way. GoFundMe campaigns for restaurant employees are increasingly popping up.

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Restaurants along North Main Street including Rio Bravo close their dining rooms due to Corona Virus outbreak Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in South Norwalk, Conn.

March 16 — Last call

Gov. Ned Lamont joins the governors of New York and New Jersey in closing all restaurants and bars to in-house guests. The new rules will go into effect at 8 p.m. Not since Prohibition has the restaurant and bar industry seen such a dramatic change to the fundamental nature of its businesses. Many restaurants continue their efforts to revamp their takeout models, but others make the difficult decision to temporarily close until the threat from COVID-19 passes. Locals 8 Restaurant Group locks the doors of 14 locations including all Plan B’s, Butchers & Bakers in Farmington, and The Half Door and Tisane in Hartford.

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Decorated for St. Patrick's Day, Joey C's Boathouse in Stratford, Conn. and other restaurants will see no in house patrons after the announcement of state mandated closures on Monday, March 16, 2020. The restaurant is providing curbside pick-up as well as home delivery of corned beef sandwiches, platters, and other Irish specialties for the holiday.

March 17 — St. Patrick’s Dry

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with no bars open is like shopping on Black Friday with no stores open. But restaurants try to make the best of it, bombarding social media with Irish-themed takeout specials. At the Corner in Litchfield posts a photo of a sidewalk-chalk shamrock to peddle their bangers. Hoodoo Brown BBQ in Ridgefield offers up green provolone parsley sausages and Mikro in Hamden has a corned beef brisket sandwich with Irish cheddar and beer mustard. Oxford’s 121 Restaurant & Bar, located on the grounds of Waterbury-Oxford Airport, is the first state eatery to close entirely, with more than 40 employees losing their jobs.

March 18 — Your meal comes with a fresh roll

Conspiracy in Middletown and Vinny’s Deli in Wallingford, among many others, are using toilet paper as a draw. Strange times call for strange measures, but with grocery store and pharmacy shelves cleaned out, it’s what many customers truly need. To-go orders now come with rolls of toilet paper, usually sold at cost with a strict limit of how many you can buy. We’ve entered a world where TP is as appealing as a delicious meal cooked by a world-class chef.

Meanwhile in the beverage world, vineyards and breweries adjust to to-go sales but, like restaurants, it’s a struggle. Hanging Hill Brewing Co. in Hartford will announce within the month that it is shutting down for good. On a brighter note, distilleries across the state start making hand sanitizer, offering it to customers, and donating it to first responders.

March 19 — Alcohol pass

Lamont, by executive order, makes it legal for restaurants to sell sealed containers of alcohol consistent with what is sold on site. The law would go into effect on March 20 at noon. It must be part of a takeout order being picked up by the customer that includes food prepared on premises.

It turns out restaurants are not permitted to sell mixed drinks to go, and there is fairly widespread confusion about this point on social media initially. Mexican restaurants like Cuckoo’s Nest in Old Saybrook, Los Mariachis in Wallingford, and Toro Loco Mezcaloteca in Farmington start pushing margarita mixes to go. Restaurant Bricco in West Hartford provides the ingredients for customers to make their own blood orange vodkatinis at home.

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A customer picks up a take out order from Sorrento Pizza and Restaurant on High Ridge Road. Owner Tony Uva talks about changes he has made in his family owned business of 31 years, in direct response to the coronavirus crisis and what he is doing to safely serve his customers and fulfill take out orders in a safe manner on March 19, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut.

What’s next

Some restaurants that have tried takeout have already abandoned those efforts and are shuttering for the time being. Others have found new success with menus that are different than their normal ones; barbecue and Italian food seem particularly popular, as do family-style trays of various fare. Some are finding success with take-home meal kits and make-your-own pizzas.

Establishments that offer delivery have expanded their areas of coverage. Crowdfunding efforts for employees continue, some owners are offering free meals for laid-off staff, as well as charitable attempts to take donations for restaurants to feed frontline health care workers and other needy individuals. Fork & Fire in Farmington is donating 25 percent of gift card purchases to their Restaurant Rescue fund, used to assist laid-off staff members.

The future, much like the present, remains uncertain. What we do know is this one week, for the restaurant industry and the world, will have a ripple effect for months and years to come.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.