FARGO - Popular downtown pizzeria Blackbird Woodfire Grill is pivoting to an all takeout and delivery model as the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on.

The change takes effect Thursday, Nov. 5.

Owner Casey Absey said it’s not a move that he prefers, but with restrictions on indoor dining now down to 25% of a business’s capacity, the move makes sense both economically and for the safety of his staff and customers.

“I feel like it’s just time if we’re going to get through this” pandemic, Absey said Wednesday morning, Nov. 4. “It just makes sense. We’re a pizza place. We do good with takeout anyway.”

Absey is a former respiratory therapist. He said he knows people working in the health care industry and that they are faced daily with the deadly nature of the coronavirus.

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As of Wednesday, more than 9.4 million known COVID-19 cases had been reported in the U.S., with about 233,000 people having died after contracting it.

“Hopefully, people will not take it personally or politically,” Absey said of his decision.

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The restaurant at 206 Broadway N. first made the announcement Tuesday, Nov. 3, on its Facebook page.

“The time has come to lay low and protect ourselves and our supportive customers. As of Thursday, November 5th we will be take-out and delivery via Bite Squad only. Dining room will be closed,” the Facebook post said.

“We however will have a swanky new deli cooler with all your favorite Blackbird treats and hopefully a few new ones too! We will also be offering soups and bread daily as well as lefse and pâté’ in the coming days. Please help support local (businesses) and remember this will pass,” the post said, ending with, “Peace and love from the Blackbird Crew.”

In mid-October, Blackbird Woodfire joined several other downtown businesses in requiring customers to mask up when they entered and moved around the restaurant.

“Please respect my decision, it’s not political and don’t want to debate it in the front door,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post. “Put on a mask, eat some great pizza and go home and be safe.”

Health officials have repeatedly emphasized that wearing a mask is important because the COVID-19 virus is thought to be mostly spread by tiny respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze, and that wearing a mask helps prevent these droplets from spreading.

At the time, Absey said he wished he had required masks sooner.

“I feel like we should have done it from the get go,” Absey said. “I think we all need to get together on it.”

Blackbird Woodfire Grill, 206 Broadway N., Fargo, is moving to takeout and delivery only as of Thursday, Nov. 5, as restrictions get tighter on the number of patrons allowed to dine indoors and concerns about safety during the pandemic continue. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)
Blackbird Woodfire Grill, 206 Broadway N., Fargo, is moving to takeout and delivery only as of Thursday, Nov. 5, as restrictions get tighter on the number of patrons allowed to dine indoors and concerns about safety during the pandemic continue. (Helmut Schmidt / The Forum)

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney at the Oct. 19 City Commission meeting issued a mandatory mask order requiring the wearing of face coverings in the city.

The order also encourages all stores and businesses to adopt policies prohibiting entry without wearing masks.

The mandate affects residents in all indoor and outdoor environments where wearers are exposed to non-household members and where social distancing of six feet or more cannot be assured.

The City Commission will determine when the emergency is over.