Why one La. restaurant owner lets couple dine in during coronavirus shutdown

Central restaurant owner continues to serve meals to elderly woman with dementia, husband

CENTRAL, La. (WAFB) - There's always a line outside MePa's Diner in Central, especially since the governor ordered all restaurants to serve take-out only.

Melissa Dykes has been feeding families here for eight years. On the menu today, shrimp etouffee with salad and garlic bread.

Why one Louisiana restaurant is allowing one couple to dine in during the coronavirus shutdown.
Why one Louisiana restaurant is allowing one couple to dine in during the coronavirus shutdown. (Source: WAFB)

The take-out line has been working well for Dykes and her crew. But since the governor’s order two weeks ago, they have changed the menu. They now offer family meals, enough food for a family of six with a price that’s hard to beat.

“It’s something I could [do] to help them not have to cook.” Dykes said.

Just phone ahead, and one of her staff will bring it out to your car. It's all she can do with her dining room closed to customers.

Unless you are Bill and Ruth Jordan.

"We come back every day." Bill laughed from behind a big hamburger. It's important. He and Ruth have eaten lunch here every day for the past two years. "I don't cook." Bill added.

But just being here, in this dining room is more important.

"She has dementia," Bill almost whispered.

Routine is important in Ruth's day. She wakes up at the same time, eats the same breakfast, and eats the same ham and cheese omelet at MePa's for lunch every day. And every day near the end of their meal, Dykes joins the couple for a Gospel song.

"It's important we do a lot of the same things," Bill said, "otherwise, she gets confused.

When the governor ordered all dining rooms closed, Dykes knew she could not lock Bill and Ruth out of her restaurant or her life.

Why one Louisiana restaurant is allowing one couple to dine in during the coronavirus shutdown.
Why one Louisiana restaurant is allowing one couple to dine in during the coronavirus shutdown. (Source: WAFB)

Dykes and her staff make sure that every day when Bill and Ruth arrive, their table is ready, and there are no more than eight people in the restaurant to comply with the governor’s order.

"I said, 'we've got to take care of Bill and Ruth.'" Dykes said. "If it was my mother, I would want somebody to help. My mother is out in the parking lot right now, and I can't hug her. But I can do something for Miss Ruth. It's what my heart needed to do."

In tough times, a chef can feed a family of six at a price that is hard to beat, but it takes a friend like the staff at MePa’s to feed your soul.

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