Local restaurants struggle amid restrictions
Mary Beth Sallee & Jennifer Moonsong
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
Three weeks have passed since Governor Andy Beshear announced new restrictions in an effort to alleviate the spread of COVID-19.
One of those restrictions has greatly impacted Kentucky’s restaurants.
During a previous press conference, Governor Beshear said that studies have proven that COVID-19 is spread in indoor settings where people are dining without masks on. Therefore, on November 18, restaurants and bars were forced to cease all indoor dining through at least December 13. Carryout, curbside, and delivery are still allowed, as well as socially distanced outdoor services.
Despite some services still being allowed, Kentucky Restaurant Association (KRA) President Stacy Roof stated in a TV interview that restaurants cannot solely rely on such limited options.
According to Roof, the KRA had previously estimated that 20 percent of the state’s restaurants would close permanently because of the pandemic. She further explained that this round of restrictions may actually increase that estimate.
Tammy and Rodney Deckard, owners/operators of The Lighthouse, one of the region’s most visited destination eateries, have concerns, and hopes, for the future.
“It has been a very trying time for sure. With so many restaurants in the US closing permanently, it’s been a concern for us. We’re considered a ‘destination restaurant’ and people drive for long distances to come and experience family-style dining, and of course, it’s just not the same when you’re having to take it home,” said Tammy, whose family has owned the restaurant for decades.
There is a silver lining.
“We’ve been blessed to say our customers from Metcalfe and surrounding counties have kept us open by ordering carry out. Some customers order every week from us! They’re faithful, they leave tips for the staff that’s still working and they tell us they appreciate us being open through this pandemic.”
Like many restaurants, they’ve come up with creative ways to keep revenue flowing to keep the doors open.
“We’ve tried to come up with specials for family pack deals, that has went over well, sold our gift cards with a perk of a free $15 gift card with $100 purchase of gift cards, and made some adjustments to our menu, and our hours of operations. We open an hour later than normal and close an hour earlier, just little steps to cut corners here and there.
December is a traditionally profitable month for restaurants. The Lighthouse usually hosts multiple parties every day throughout the Christmas season.
“During this time all of that is gone,” said Tammy. “Our employees don’t get the hours that they want and need, because we’re not seeing all of our customers. So, it’s just a cycle that affects everyone, one way or another.”
With a new year just around the corner, the Deckard’s are looking forward to 2021.
“We’re hopeful for 2021! We hope things can get back to some sense of normalcy. God’s blessed us in 2020, we’re still open and going, and we’re thankful for that. We definitely look forward to busy days in Sulphur Well again.”
Like so many of the other restaurants in Metcalfe County, the lighthouse has a rich history, and if the restaurants die the history dies with them. That’s why it’s so important for customers to continue getting takeout, and utilizing the restaurants in the ways that are available.
Although times are tough for locally owned restaurants, the community can rally together to show support. It is highly encouraged that gift cards be purchased from restaurants. Doing so will help provide business owners with the cash they can use now to make it through the most recent set of restrictions. The community is also encouraged to continue ordering carryout and curbside from favorite local restaurants.
An additional effort by Governor Beshear has also been made to help restaurants across the state. He has dedicated $40 million in funding to help offset the financial impact that restrictions may have on restaurants and bars. This will be provided via the CARES Act funding.
Qualifying businesses will be eligible for $10,000 in assistance for various expenses. Businesses that have more than one location will be eligible for a maximum of $20,000.
Businesses who qualify must also remain in compliance with all public health orders. In an attempt to focus solely on locally owned businesses, publicly traded companies are not eligible to apply. Also, businesses that have at least 50% of their sales via drive-through will not be eligible.
Applications for the funding opened on November 30 and will close on December 18. Each application will be processed in the order in which they are received. The applications are first come, first serve.
For further information regarding COVID-19, visit the Team Kentucky website at www.kycovid19.ky.gov.