Bars, restaurants scrambling after all in-person dining ordered to stop

Updated: Mar. 17, 2020 at 12:18 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered all in-person dining to stop at Kentucky restaurants and bars to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

That move had owners scrambling to come up with new plans to keep business going with carry-out and delivery service, and to try and keep as many workers as possible.

Monday, the new normal began for restaurant and bar owners, many of them calling emergency meetings to try and figure out how to stay afloat during the coronavirus threat.

“I had a big party planned for (Tuesday) night here in the neighborhood,” restaurant and pub owner Louie Karem said of a St. Patrick’s Day event.

St. Patrick’s Day green for restaurants and bars from Norton Commons to the Highlands and beyond was canceled as in-person dining and entertainment was halted.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Karem said. It’s a huge dilemma after his catering business suffered numerous cancellations for parties and banquets for his catering business. The owner of Karem’s Grill & Pub in Norton Commons now has more tough decisions on his plate.

“Staffing is the biggest problem, and how do I get to the customers and keep dollars flowing?” Karem asked, adding that he will have to take about 10 employees down to two or three. He’s planning for carry-out service, and now, adding delivery to area neighborhoods.

Around the corner, Mercato Italiano owner Peter Pagano said, “It’s a really scary time.”

Pagano said he has plans for dual curbside pick-up for restaurant-prepared meals or meal kits you can make with the kids.

“You can call and we’re happy to come out to either door and drop off your food,” he said. “Whatever it takes.”

Pagano said he’s also wrestling with schedules for 30 full- and part-time employees at his restaurant and wine store.

“I’m trying to figure out ways they can make it through the time period.”

The governor has urged the public to try and get carry-out at least three times a week to keep the lights on.

“Support your small businesses," he said. "There’s going to be a big effect on a lot of people that may not be able to survive this.”

Gov. Andy Beshear and state leaders spoke about the coronavirus cases in Kentucky Monday monring.
Gov. Andy Beshear and state leaders spoke about the coronavirus cases in Kentucky Monday monring.(WAVE 3 News)

Downtown eatery Doc Crow’s is closing all operations for now, according to a sign on its door, but operators are urging patrons to buy gift cards for future use. All owners are urging the public to check their websites and Facebook pages to see new carry-out and delivery options.

Troy King and Selena Johnson, the owners of Six Forks Burger Co. in Shelby Park, said they installed a curbside pick up window in a door they weren’t using.

“To help further be in the standards that the governor has set, we installed a take out window,” King said, showing where the door had been sawed and the window had been placed.

King said his restaurant is adhering to the restriction set forth by Beshear by offering pick up services, beefing up deliveries, extending the restaurant’s hours and even providing free lunches to children as school is out.

“It’s great,” Johnson said. “We had, I know, probably eight or nine.”

In Beechmont, the food truck Back Deck BBQ posted on social media that Monday would be its last night operating until further notice.

“There was a good line here for at least an hour and a half until he started running out of food,” Steve Obst, who had just bought dinner from the truck, told WAVE 3 News Monday night. “Once people heard he was out of food, they started getting out of line. But they waited, and waited long enough to get something good.”

Obst said he wanted to support the small business owner who makes his favorite barbecue in town.

“The chains will survive, but some local folks might have issues once everything shuts down,” he said.

King said he is concerned about business, but not because of how it will effect him personally.

“I’m a little less concerned about myself and more concerned about my employees,” King said. “They live paycheck to paycheck.”

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