Alhambra Theatre & Dining to Reopen as a Full Service Restaurant
Like all businesses creating new norms in this period of COVID-19, the nation's longest-running dinner theater, Jacksonville's Alhambra Theatre & Dining, is doing some improvising. Since it cannot host its theatrical productions due to Florida's continued recommendation of closing theaters, the Alhambra will celebrate its culinary expertise and open for dinner service Tuesdays through Sundays, beginning Friday, May 8.
The Alhambra will also feature a special Mother's Day Lunch on Sunday, May 10 from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM. The three-course meal is $40 per person.
The Alhambra had successfully pivoted at the beginning of the business closing period by switching from seated dining for 375 people to take-away and curbside delivery. Executive Chef Dejuan Roy, responsible six years ago for changing the Alhambra's dining experience from a buffet to seated dining, had to change the kitchen configuration, the work stations and even the menus to make the Alhambra conducive to a more traditional flow.
Where most restaurants seat their dinner guests for a period of four or five hours, most guests staying only for about 60-90 minutes then then turning the table over, the Alhambra seats 375 guests almost all at the same time and in under two hours and limits its menu to four choices. The Alhambra had to adjust to its ordering system, turning a ticket selling software into a dinner reservation software. They also had to adjust the service process from plating its meals, to packaging its meals in multiple sized containers, including utensils and placing them into customers' cars instead of on their tables.
Now, Chef Dejuan will change the dynamics again, adding to the take-away dining process a return to taking orders and delivering food to customers in the dining room. Said Alhambra Managing Partner Craig Smith, "This is the first time in the 52 year history of this operation that we have featured only dining. We're hoping perhaps we get some new guests to try Dejuan's award-winning dining since they won't also be committed to seeing a show. Then they'll come back once we open at full speed."
Innovation will continue on the front end of the dining operation, as well. For those 50 years, the box office staff has taken orders primarily for seating assignments with the occasional special instructions, but now the staff of four will take dinner reservations and assist guests with making menu choices. "In order for this all to run smoothly,' commented Smith, "we are going to take dinner orders at the time of reservation rather than at the table. It's unique, but we are ensuring a safer and more efficient environment that way." The menu will be available on the Alhambra's website and guests are asked to take a look prior to calling in.
The Alhambra will comply with State guidelines and reduce dining capacity, so reservations will be required. Smith also pointed out that the Alhambra's staff will, of course, be wearing masks and gloves, extra Server Assistants will be on hand to expedite clearing tables, and more dish washing staff will be added to ensure extra-thorough cleaning.
Dinner service at the Alhambra will being on Friday, May 8 and run Tuesdays through Sundays until further notice. The Alhambra plans to open to its traditional dinner theater schedule with its summer family show, Cinderella, on June 11. Until then says Smith, "We are thrilled we figured this out because it means we get to continue seeing the guests we consider to be like family and to keep even more of our staff employed until we can get back to full operational capacity."
The Alhambra Theatre & Dining is located at 12000 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville, FL. Tickets - in this case, dinner reservations - can be purchased by calling 904.641.1212. Dinner menus can be found on its website at www.alhambrajax.com.