When the order came down from the governor March 17 that restaurants should be closed to dine in customers through March 31, it put restaurant owners in a pickle by limiting business to delivery and takeout customers only.
While a few local restaurants have closed their doors during this period, many others have tried to work around the restrictions.
“There is plenty of nervous energy over here,” Sally Deeb, owner of Sally’s on Broadway in Springville, said. “I don’t think the reality of the entire situation has sunk in yet. I’m here every day trying to serve customers with orders to go…and we’re just trying to do anything we can to stay afloat.”
Deeb said in the early days, the restaurant was doing about one-third of normal sales, but that the weekend should provide a clearer picture.
“While clearly this whole situation is less than ideal for anyone we are glad to at least have an option at this time. We are utilizing social media to promote our carry out menu and appreciate any and all orders we take in at this time. We want to thank everyone for sharing our posts and for all who continue to support our local business,” Kelly Versendaal said, owner of Bonfire Bar & Grill in Olin.
“Adjusting to just carry out and delivery has been challenging...but the community support has been fabulous. I’ve been having record pizza sales and people have been very patient with their orders. The beer stock is dwindling now since we are able to sell that to go which is helping,” Teresa Tuetken of Tucker’s Tavern said.
Deeb, who also helps with senior meals on the first and third Wednesdays, has been working with local seniors to get them meals and said the restaurant will likely be taking over on the other Wednesdays as well.
“We at no time want any of our seniors in this town or surrounding areas to be without a hot meal regardless of day of the week. All I need is a phone call, and I will get them a hot meal,” Deeb said, whose restaurant be reached at 319-854-9982.
One of the toughest aspects of the closure is that it eliminates the social aspect of running the business.
“It’s a hospitality business, so, the whole idea is to gather people together and have them dine and drink,” Dirk Downing, owner of Tyler & Downing’s Eatery, said. “I think right now, so many people are doing the right thing by staying home, and they’re distancing themselves, which is what we’re all supposed to be doing. So that makes it extremely hard to conduct a business like this.”
“I definitely miss the interaction with my regulars. It’s just very quiet,” Tuetken said.
Despite the restrictions, Downing said many of his regular customers are still stopping by to grab some food and a drink to take with them. However, he did say that the restrictions are impacting cash flow. “The tough things that we deal with right now are all of the static bills…bills that compile each day, regardless of whether you’re opened or not,” Downing said. “The dynamic expenses that you experience, such as inventory control and staffing, those we’ve just had to make extreme cuts because of the extreme cuts in the cashflow.”
“You’re just sort of in a pickle. This will be trying times for many of my peers in the hospitality business.”
The situation is still fluid with other businesses, including salons, medical spas, barbershops, tattoo establishments and tanning facilities, ordered to shut down March 22 through March 31 as businesses and the community at large deal with the unique situation.
“It’s unprecedented. We’ve never seen anything like this,” Downing said.
Many local restaurants have been sharing their available hours and offerings on their social media pages to alert the public they are still open for business. Business owners hope that normalcy can resume as soon as possible.
“Hopefully, this won’t last too much longer, but I am very grateful for everyone who has been reaching out to order to keep us going through this difficult time,” Tuetken said. “I hope the support continues, so when the ban is lifted, we’ll be able to get back to business as usual.”