LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The clock has struck 5 p.m. for restaurants across Kentucky.
For the next three weeks, restaurants will be forced to close their dining rooms to in-person dining and strictly serve patrons through outdoor seating and curbside dining.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced the restrictions Wednesday along with a myriad of other restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. Beshear’s announcement gave restaurant owners around 48 hours to prepare their businesses for the drastic changes.
At Tea Station Asian Bistro, those preparations meant thousands of dollars spent on heat lamps and a retractable awning, so owner Alan Jones could seat customers outside.
“Here we go again,” Jones said.
Jones told WAVE 3 News his staff was prepared for the new restrictions because of their experience working under similar conditions in the spring. That said, Jones believes restaurants and bars are being targeted by the state.
“I feel like we’re being targeted, because I mean look at it, retail stays open,” Jones said. “Yeah it’s Christmas time, I get it. But, retail stays open. Well, what’s the difference going into a mall or a Kohl’s, which is enclosed. Yes, you have a mask on, but you have a mask on here at the restaurant.”
Outdoor dining is also the name of the game at Selena’s at Willow Lake Tavern on La Grange Road. The restaurant’s owner, Alan Salmon, turned the patio into a heated tent, with enough space to keep patrons more than six feet apart.
“What we do is all about people and wanting to come back,” Salmon said. “So, we’re hoping we can get through this. That’s our goal right now is to push through it.”
Salmon believes his new heated patio, along with curbside dining and creative scheduling can allow him to keep his entire staff employed, so long as the restrictions only last three weeks.
“We try to stay focused on being positive in what we do inside our four walls,” Salmon said. “I worry a lot about the restaurants that don’t have this opportunity with a tent. So, it does affect all of us from the staff down.”
Both Jones and Salmon know some restaurants won’t make it through the next three weeks and many in the industry will lose their jobs. Jones said he’s doing everything he can to make the holidays happy for his employees, no matter what it takes.
“You know our employees are family and I’ll do anything for my employees,” Jones said. “I’m going to do whatever, even if it comes out of my pocket, because they shouldn’t have to suffer because somebody comes up with the decision with no statistics behind it to just start shutting stuff down.”
Over at Gustavo’s Mexican Grill in Norton Commons, the outdoor seating was packed before and after the 5 p.m. order went into place.
Gustavo’s offers heated and lighted igloos for guest to sit inside.
“A lot of people have had questions about them,” Luis Alvarez, a manager at Gustavo’s, told WAVE 3 News. “What we are doing to ensure your safety and our safety of our staff, and yours as well, what we’re doing is cleaning and sanitizing the igloo from the inside.”
Gustavo’s also has extra heaters for those wanting to sit at tables and not inside the igloos.
At Old School New York Pizza, staffers are also prepared for the next few weeks as they also offer heated outdoor seating. Restaurant manager William Madauss is also encouraging people to order to-go and delivery during.
“A lot of us may even not make it,” Madauss said. “Hopefully we’re fortunate, we’re keeping our fingers crossed but this is a struggling time, it’s new territory again.”
There is a Facebook page operated by City Concierge Louisville with a list of restaurants and bars with heated outdoor seating that’s being updated daily. View it below: