Local businesses are the lifeblood of a community and will likely be one of the most strongly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide public health order restricting on-premise consumption at restaurants, bars, breweries and similar establishments, effective at 5 p.m. Thursday until at least April 5.
Restaurants and bars in Tallapoosa County will face a significant economic impact as a result but likely there is a glimmer of hope for some. Takeout and delivery options are still allowed as long as patrons and employees continue to practice social distancing, which means bring at least 6 feet from each other.
“I worry about small business owners and how long they’re able to sustain in this economic downturn,” Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ed Collari said.
Carlisle’s in downtown Alexander City already had shortened its hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will continue to retain that but with only take-out options.
“Curbside for us may be a little difficult because of the parking situation downtown,” Carlisle’s co-owner Larkin Radney said. “But we’re hoping our patrons will continue to order by phone and come in and pick it up. If we can, we’ll accommodate them by bringing it out.”
Having already experienced a plunge in the number of lunches ordered this week, Carlisle’s is facing the same struggles as other restaurants with people choosing to stay home.
“As of Monday, it was like someone turned off the faucet,” Radney said.
However, he plans to retain all employees as long as is possibly feasible.
“Since before even our prior operators, Carlisle’s has historically had a vibrant take-out business,” Radney said.
Prior to Ivey’s order, Jake’s on Broad was operating business as usual with additional sanitation measures, but also now must move to takeout and curbside pickup only. According to its Facebook, not only will Jake’s full menu be available but also it will offer family meal specials, in which orders must be placed by 9 a.m. and picked up starting at 5 p.m. the same day. Jake’s is offering meat and side options for families of four at a fixed price. For more information, visit Jake’s on Broad’s Facebook page or call 256-234-4300.
Unfortunately, some local owners don’t have the luxury of altering their business model. Ocie & Belle’s owner Mark Gilliland had already made the decision to temporarily shut the doors before even receiving the mandate.
“We posted on Wednesday that we would do curbside orders at 5 p.m. for Thursday, but people weren’t really interested,” Gilliland said. “I can’t really do batch cocktails so I can just sell the same as what the state stores sell. If they were to close, it may be a different story.”
Gilliland hopes this isolation won’t remain in effect for too long and, in the meantime, plans on supporting other local business the best he can.
“It’s tough; we don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s going to be a hard lesson. The reason I didn’t close initially is because I didn’t know once they shut me down when I would open back up again.”
Daniel Yates and Lynn Patterson plan to keep their kitchens fully staffed at Huddle House, Who’s Diner and Buck’s. Curbside pickup will be available, and until further notice, free delivery will be available from 2 to 10 p.m. on orders of $25 or more.
Collari said the will continue to carry out its mission and steadfastly support small business owners by remaining well-informed on economic opportunities and sharing that knowledge with the community.
“We’re educating ourselves on small business loans and passing that information around,” he said. “We’ll find out how we can possibly utilize those for folks in our community and create as much awareness as possible through social media.”
On a larger scale, Russell Lands On Lake Martin already had implemented curbside only for its restaurants, including Catherine’s Market café. The grocery side will remain open but with adjusted hours: Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The café will accept take-out orders Tuesday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Obviously this is going to have an impact, but it’s too early to tell just how much,” Russell Lands vice president Roger Holliday said. “People have come to the lake to get away from this. So, a lot of people are here, and they’ve got to eat.”
Along with most other restaurants and businesses, Russell Lands implemented new sanitation requirements and is surveying employees each day to ensure proper health conditions.
“We’ve taken some very extreme measures,” Holliday said. “Things that we all thought two weeks ago were ridiculous today are the norm.”
Since people still have to eat, Holliday imagines takeout and curbside are what will be the new normal for a while.
“From our standpoint, we’ve been following the hospitality industry and been hot on this thing for two weeks,” he said. “I feel like we’ve been under a microscope for two weeks, and so Thursday’s announcement doesn’t have a direct impact because we were already there.”
In terms of employment, Russell Lands is doing everything in its power to allow staff to take sick time and spread hours amongst all employees. SpringHouse Restaurant also has rolled out family-style offerings to serve families of four or eight and Willow Point and Kowaliga Restaurant likely will follow suit.
The Rodeo Club owner Ed Shikoski said his establishment has shut down effectively immediately.
“No amount of money is worth the risk of lives,” Shikoski said. “I know this is not an easy decision for the governor to make. I trust she knows what is necessary for our state to get healthy.”
Shikoski’s main concern is his employees and worries how they will pay their bills and survive once their livelihoods have been taken.
“This is a frightening time,” Shikoski said. “I will do everything I can do to help them. I’m very worried how we and our team will survive.”
Collari said the community could stand in solidarity with those business owners and employees who will suffer.
“There are still opportunities for folks to go out, spend money and support local businesses,” Collari said. “It is a unique time we are in.”