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BACK IN BUSINESS: Monkey Tree to become drive-in to get through pandemic

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The Monkey Tree Pub is showing that an innovative business response to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic can revive a classic dining experience enjoyed by older generations.

The Range Lake Road pub is in the process of setting up the first drive-in and dining service that Yellowknife has seen in years, possibly decades. The service, popular in North America in the 1950s and 1960s, involved diners pulling into a restaurant and ordering food that was brought to a tray attached to their vehicles.

"We are missing our regulars (and) we needed to find a way to resume lunch and dinner service. This is just a cool way to allow us some connection with our customers while abiding by the new restrictions," said owner Jen Vornbrock.

The Monkey Tree pub has ordered 45 aluminum trays for its new drive-through and dine service that it plans to begin in a few weeks. photo courtesy of Facebook

"Hopefully this adaptation will allow us another way to weather the storm. We are even going to start offering milkshakes - just to really dive back into the drive-in and dine experience."

Vornbrock connected on the Etsy vintage item portal with a vendor in Michigan whose family manufactures the trays using a machine from the 1960s.

"They brought it over from Texas and spent five years fixing it up. It’s the only one of its kind and is now being used to make these trays for restaurants and even drive-through testing facilities. I had asked if they were of proper quality to do this service and not just some plastic novelty item," she said.

The vendor stated on Etsy that her family acquired the industrial grade machine in 1982 and that it is the only one of its kind in the United States.

"Trays hang only from window glass, do not touch car body," she said.

Territorial Beverages has partnered with Monkey Tree for the project, and paid for all 45 of the trays that Vornbrock ordered.

"It's about supporting local business. The Monkey Tree has been a long time customer of ours. Jen suggested (the drive-in and dine) to me and I thought it was a fantastic idea," said manager Terra Weaver Pagonis.
Though she wouldn't say how much Territorial Beverages contributed to the project, the Etsy page of the manufacturer lists the trays as $87.98 each.
Vornbrock said the trays should arrive in Yellowknife in a few weeks and she'll be ready to begin the classic dining service right away in the pub's parking lot.
"We have to create stall numbers for ease of ordering and am actually thinking we will be implementing a reservation system so that we don’t have congestion when we first get this off the ground. All that’s left to do now is train the staff to rollerblade!"