Rapidly changing circumstances amidst the COVID-19 pandemic are putting local restaurant and bar owners on edge as they rush to plan for the future.
The Columbia City Council's emergency resolution has capped patronage at bars and restaurants at either 50% of capacity or 50 people, including staff, whichever number is lower, according to Missourian reporting Tuesday.
Big Daddy's BBQ, which closes its restaurant every winter, has delayed its spring opening on Wednesday for at least 15 days. In terms of catering, co-owner Fontella Henry says she's touching base with her customers on whether they want to move forward. All of the restaurant's food truck operations have been suspended.
"I'm just taking it in like the rest of America," Henry says. "It's a wow moment for us. We miss our customers and we can't wait to get back to work. We're doing what's safe for us and the community right now."
Mark Sulltrop, owner of 44 Stone Public House and 44 Canteen, says he's also being vigilant in regards to protocols from the Missouri Restaurant Association. Business at the restaurants has slowed down a lot, but Sulltrop encourages customers to order takeout while he works to implement a delivery service. Sulltrop has closed three of his dining rooms and all reservations have been cancelled. He says take out orders are still coming in steadily.
The impact on employees remains to be seen. Sulltrop says those who will be temporarily laid off might benefit more from collecting unemployment. He says the impacts on his business will be tremendous and that he's already in contact with his bank concerning a loan. He's also talking to his insurance company about adjustments to the revenue downfall.
"We're trying to keep as many people employed as we can, and we ask that people still try to support us," says Sulltrop. "Obviously we are just one aspect, but everything trickles down and everyone is affected."
St. Patrick's Day is the anniversary of 44 Stone Public House's opening, and Sulltrop says it was hard to receive only a third of his anticipated sales Tuesday. Another matter of concern is food waste and how much should be ordered. Sulltrop figures he will only need half of his supply at the very most, though no patrons had entered the restaurant as of 12 p.m. Wednesday.
"What little business we have, we will try to embrace and think outside of the box," Sulltrop says. "It's just a wait-and-see situation right now."
Some bars and restaurants have closed for now in response to the outbreak, and some have shortened their hours, according to the Missourian. Others are sticking to providing food for take out only. Several places, such as Sycamore and Barred Owl Butcher & Table, are asking customers to purchase gift certificates online in order to continue supporting local businesses in this difficult time. Both businesses are adding an extra $10 to gift certificate purchases over $50.
Sycamore has started a list of restaurants on Facebook that are offering curbside pick-up or delivery options as well as how to purchase gift certificates. Some of these places include Nourish Cafe & Market, Jina Yoo's Asian Bistro, Le Bao Asian Eatery and Culver's.
Keep up with the latest COVID-19 news at our sister publication, the Columbia Missourian.