With phase one of the state’s reopening plan happening this past week, different Wellington businesses are at their own individual phases of the reopening process.
Eating establishments that could only provide delivery and curbside services during the stay-at- home order - which was lifted May 4 - are again offering dine-in services as long as they practice social distancing.
Bars and nightclubs cannot reopen beyond offering curbside and carry-out services until phase 2 of the reopening plan, which begins May 18. Until that date, other businesses prohibited from opening are: casinos; leisure spaces, such as arcades; fitness and community centers and places where people have close contact, such as barshops, hair and nail salons.
Kim Mraz and JoAnn Buckman have reopened their dine in businesses, No. 7 Coffeehouse and El Chile Verde, respectively. Mraz temporarily closed No. 7 Coffeehouse around the time the local order of no public gatherings of 50 people or less was issued - before the stay-at-home order was issued
One of her employees had the flu and everyone working there had to self-isolate while they waited for that person’s COVID-19 test results, which were negative. Mraz had to sanitize the restaurant and throw out all the food.
“We lost a lot of food,” she said. “Insurance doesn’t cover that. I couldn’t afford to restock everything. I couldn’t afford to stay open. We didn’t know what to expect. I decided not to take my chances staying open and losing more money.”
Eventually, No. 7 Coffeehouse started offering drive-up service for the first three Saturdays before the reopening. On May 5, the coffee shop began dine-in service again.
“Basically, we’re starting from scratch,” Mraz said.
Joann Buckman, owner of El Chile Verde’ showed where she moved all the tables apart in her restaurant. Also, there has to be one empty booth or table separating one eating space from another. There has to be six-feet between tables. Up to 10 people can sit together at a table, but no more. Customers do have the option of dining outside.
“We lost 50 percent of our seating capacity,” Buckman said. “We’re easing into it.”
El Chile’ Verde started offering curbside and carry-out service on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for three weeks before reopening dine-in service.
“I think it was pretty successful, but it’s not enough,” Buckman said. “That's not going to carry your business.”
Kip Etter, owner of The Dore, has not yet been able to reopen dine-in services at his establishment.
“We were told we were considered a bar,” Etter said. “We didn’t fall under the guidelines of a restaurant.”
Our sales are 50/50 food and alcohol,” Etter said. “Given the fact that we don’t have dine in, 50 percent of our sales are off the table from the beginning. "If we were able to make up 50 percent of our sales with food and delivery,we still would be off 75 percent with sales."
Etter said The Dore started offering curbside, carry-out and delivery services as a necessity. He doesn’t know if he will continue the practice when the pandemic is over.
Employees who were hired as cooks and servers were doing maintenance and cleaning work in the building as Etter talked.
“We’re trying to make the best of the given situation,” he said. “We’re taking advantage of the shutdown to do remodeling and renovation that we wouldn’t be able to do if we weren’t shut down.”
The business owners said they were able to keep most of their staff, but lost a few during the shutdown. They all received a Payroll Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration, which can be forgiven if they maintain 90% of their employees and put 75% of the loan toward payroll, which they are all trying to do.
“The staff has been great,” Etter said. “They’ve been very ded
icated and kept a great attitude. The community has been awesome with support and with understanding that going to delivery is a completely new animal for us so there were some hurdles to get over and navigate.”
Mraz said support from the community has “encouraged, uplifted and motivated us. It definitely helps your morale, having that support. It sure blesses our heart.”