EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Local businesses are reeling from Monday’s announcement that Indiana restaurants and bars must close to in-person customers. They’ll only be able to offer take-out and delivery at least through the end of the month after an order from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Restaurant and bar owners are worried about how they’re going stay afloat — and what it means for their employees.
“We’re worried, like anyone else, because you don’t know how long this is going to last. The fact of the matter is, the sales that you miss, you can’t get back,” said Clint Hoskins, part-owner of High Score Saloon.” If we lose however much we lose over say a month, it would take us two years to make that back in gross. It’s just not going to happen. The money that we lose from this is money gone forever.”
Mindy Hale, shopkeeper at Honey+Moon Coffee Company, right, wipes down stools and chairs with Clorox wipes after closing down the dining room at the cafe Monday afternoon, March 16, 2020. The Evansville coffee cafe is one of many establishments in Indiana worried about staying in business after the word came down today that due to the coronavirus outbreak only to-go or take-out orders would be allowed until at least through the end of March. (Photo: DENNY SIMMONS / COURIER & PRESS)
The two-week shut down of his arcade bar is a huge hit, but he says they are in a better position than most, which is why they are continuing to pay their employees while they are closed.
“We were in a position to withstand the storm depending on the length. We have lower operating costs because we do so much ourselves,” Hoskins said. “We care about our employees and want to prove to them that we care about them as more than just assets to the company, but as friends and people.”
His biggest concern is the uncertainty of the situation and the impact it will have on everyone if it continues.
Ryan London’s Newburgh restaurant Ghost Quesadilla opened 10 days ago, and now he’s forced to close his dining room.
“There’s never been anything like this before; this is unprecedented in every shape, way, and form,” London said. “We don’t know what to expect at all.”
Over the weekend, he and his staff began preparing for the worst-case scenario by expanding their carryout options. Now, Ghost Quesadilla will have delivery, a walk-up window for carryout, as well as employees taking orders and bringing the food outside so customers don’t have to go inside.
He said he’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep the doors open but is worried about the financial impact it will have regardless.
“It puts us at a disadvantage because we’re not a household name yet,” London said. “We just opened up so it makes us worry for all the employees that we’re going to get enough hours and we’re going to get enough sales to keep the doors open.”
He is hoping people still patronize his business but is expecting that everyone’s hours will have to be reduced by around 25 percent if sales decline.
“Remember that Wall Street is getting bailouts, and Main Street is the one that needs this,” London said. “So if you’re going to spend your money and go out to eat, please do it locally, support your local business owners because they support your local people as well.”
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Amy Word, owner of Amy’s on Franklin and Lamasco Bar, said, “these are very scary times.” She has 50 employees between her two restaurants and knows what missing a paycheck will mean to them and their households.
She said she told them, “I’m never going to let you go hungry, and we’ll figure this out together,” but is still nervous since it’s such an unprecedented situation.
“We’re all flying by the seat of our pants,” Word said. “I mean, it’s not like there’s a recipe for ‘here’s what to do in case of a pandemic.’ Everybody is doing the best they can with very limited information.”
Her biggest fear is that the two-week ban is an arbitrary deadline, and no one knows how long it will last.
She is encouraging the community to eat local by ordering pickup and delivery from Evansville restaurants. Her two restaurants will be offering pickup and delivery via Grubhub from 4-9 p.m.
A lot of other owners are expressing frustration on how this will impact their employees, some who live paycheck to paycheck, and are feeling helpless on how to help.
“I have one girl who is also in school, and she works her butt off here every week,” said Mike Reeder, owner of Boonville’s Commander’s Grill. “I have another who is saving money before she has to go on maternity leave. I have employees who need a stable place to go to work every day.”
He said they will stay open and offer curbside delivery and takeout, and while it’s hard, he’s determined they will get through it.
Peephole Bar & Grill owner Steve Alsop said he has no choice but to close, and his biggest concern is his employees.
“It’s a huge impact obviously,” Alsop said. “We can’t sell carryout booze. I’m worried more about my employees than the bar. So what I’m going to do is keep my employees employed for as long as I can sprucing up the bar, cleaning, remodeling to try to keep them afloat.
“They’re worried they’re not going to be able to pay their bills. There’s a lot of unknowns out there, and no one hiring so it’s not like they can go get a job somewhere else. The hospitality industry has been shut down.”
If people want to support local bars, they can purchase merchandise like T-shirts or even gift cards if they offer them, Allsop said.
“It’s going to be tough if it goes longer than two weeks. We need the government to step up, do their job and help,” he said.
Steve Bennett, owner of The Cork and Cleaver, said if it gets really bad, they will have employees come in for meals twice a day.
He will close down lunch service but will stay open for curbside and carry-out during dinner hours from 4-8 p.m.
Jackie Weil, a part-owner, and general manager at Pie Pan, said they have already felt the effects of the coronavirus well before Monday’s announcement, and this is just another blow.
Weil said catering orders got canceled as events are no longer happening due to coronavirus concerns and closing down their dining rooms only makes it harder to give employees enough hours.
“We worry about our employees and their families, and we’ll utilize a few so they can help us clean and hope this passes quickly and hope we can get back to business pretty soon,” Weil said.
For the remainder of the month, Pie Pan will be offering curbside pickup with adjusted hours of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Honey Moon Coffee Cafe also said they’ve been feeling the effects well before Monday and adjusting their business practices to make it as convenient as possible for people still wanting to come in.
Honey Moon closed the dining area at both their Eastside and Weinbach locations on Monday. The Eastside coffee shop will be drive-thru only, and customers can order curbside pickup online or by phone at the Weinbach store.
“We’re trying to stay open as much as possible, especially for our employees and even me,” manager Ashly Heath said. “I rely on this for my income; this is my only job. We’re hoping it won’t impact us that much but we’ll go with the flow and depends on how Evansville reacts.”
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