BROOKINGS – Even before the Brookings City Council passed an ordinance Monday ordering them to do so, some local bars and restaurants decided to serve only take-out and delivery or close altogether amid the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Gus Theodosopoulos, owner of Cubby’s Sports Bar & Grill.
The decision was the latest one made locally in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.
The business people have the support of the local Chamber of Commerce.
“We know this difficult decision was not made lightly but believe taking steps now to confront the coronavirus will ultimately benefit our community by limiting the spread of the disease and enable everyone to get back to business sooner,” said Kelsey Doom, president of the Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Brookings City Council closed on-site food and beverage service, and entertainment and recreation establishments that hadn’t already done so as of Monday night.
Taking the initiative
The bar and restaurant owners and operators had been communicating about COVID-19 for a while, Theodosopoulos said Monday.
“That’s been our topic of conversation for the last two weeks,” he said. “We’ve been ready to do it.”
Two reasons they stayed open were to give their staff as much work as they could and “get everybody signed up for unemployment,” as well as use up as much perishable stuff as possible, he added.
“We’re trying to take care of our employees,” Theodosopoulos said. “We’re just preaching stay safe and hopefully this thing passes.”
Staying safe was a big reason the bars and restaurants took the initiative to close their own doors, added Michael Johnson, head chef and general manager of The Pheasant Restaurant & Lounge.
“Evidently, the college kids are not taking this seriously, a portion of them,” he said.
Videos have surfaced of local college-aged kids “that are still trying to find bars that are open to crowd into … having house parties and packing in,” Johnson reported. “They’re still sort of living on this ‘I’m young, I’m safe, I’m in a bubble’ idea.”
He called on everyone to get the message out to the younger people that they can spread the disease and, just as important, they themselves can get sick and die from COVID-19.
CBS News reported Monday that at least five students from the University of Tampa have tested positive for coronavirus after spring break, according to the university. This comes after spring-breakers in Florida were heavily criticized for ignoring social distancing guidelines and packing beaches, according to cbsnews.com online.
“Nearly one-third of confirmed cases in the U.S., and 20% of those hospitalized, were between the ages of 20 and 44, according to CDC data released last week,” according to cbsnews.com online.
“They’re not watching the news and not hearing that in Italy and China they are reporting that young people are dying of COVID-19,” Johnson said.
Experts want to “flatten the curve” and control the numbers getting the virus so there are not so many at the same time, which would overwhelm hospitals’ and health care workers’ ability to care for them, according to cbsnews.com online.
This is exactly what concerns Johnson; he worries how the local hospital could cope with an outbreak involving multiple people. Johnson pointed out Brookings has a large elderly population, many of whom have health conditions. He fears for members of his own family who have health conditions that could endanger their lives if they contract COVID-19.
“If I’m going through all of these efforts to wash my hands bloody and they are out partying and having house parties, then going into (public places), it’s not gonna do us much good,” Johnson said.
Following is a partial listing of some of the local eateries and watering holes that made the decision to close their doors or limit service ahead of the Brookings City Council’s ordinance.
Cubby’s/9 Bar, George’s
Cubby’s Sports Bar & Grill in the downtown area posted a message on its Facebook page.
“After careful consideration Cubby’s and 9 Bar are making the very difficult decision to close to the general public other than take-out and delivery for now. For the sake of our much-valued customers and employees, we want to try to do our part to help the situation that has been thrown at us all. We hope this is short term and hope to come back better than ever.”
George’s Pizza also announced Sunday that it would only be taking to-go and delivery orders as of Monday.
Ray’s Corner, Jim’s Tap, Pints and Quarts, O’Hare’s
Ray’s Corner closed early, according to a handwritten sign on the door.
“This town’s health concerns us. We are closed until further notice. Please! Stay home. Stay safe. Check on your neighbors. Thank you.”
Jim’s Tap announced via its Facebook page Sunday that it was closing, and so did O’Hare’s.
Pints and Quarts announced via its Facebook Sunday afternoon that it was closing its dining room but still offering take-out and free delivery starting Monday.
Sully’s Irish Pub, Skinner’s
Sully’s Irish Pub is closed to public traffic until further notice, according to Lisa Sullivan, owner.
As of press time, they were doing research and making decisions on whether to have off-sale beer and wine to go, she said. They would also be making decisions on whether to adjust their hours.
Skinner’s closed until further notice, according to a post Sunday on the bar’s Facebook page.
“Our employees, our guests, and our community are of the utmost importance to us. We want to do our part in helping everyone stay as safe and healthy as possible. Today we made a very difficult decision and do what we believe is the right thing and voluntarily temporarily close our doors, effective today. We will continue to assess this ever-changing situation and plan for brighter days ahead.”
The Pheasant closed for dine-in on Saturday but is still doing take-out and delivery.
“We’re operating out of the kitchen and our retail stuff,” Johnson said.
They have implemented “no contact, trunk drop/carhop orders,” he said.
The full menu is available. Customers can call in orders and they are asked to pay over the phone, including any gratuity, “so we don’t have to bring them a pen or anything,” Johnson said.
“They pull up in the parking lot, they pop their trunk, we drop it in. And they don’t have to worry about any potential contact,” even with pens, he added.
“We are doing it both from family-style prepared meals that we can either cook for them or they can bring home and they are ready to cook,” Johnson said.
He recognizes local grocery stores are under more strain with condensed hours and the potential for gatherings to spread COVID-19.
“We are working right now on using our wholesaler accounts to get people some groceries,” Johnson said. That could mean his staff putting together pre-assembled bags of groceries or letting people order off available inventory. Either way, it would operate under the no-contact, trunk-drop rules.
Availability will depend on what his suppliers are available to deliver and Johnson acknowledged items he offers will have to be adjusted accordingly.
“The suppliers are being hit as hard as the local grocery stores,” he said. “We’re being flexible.”
The Pheasant is still selling alcohol, but the bar is closed, “so we’ll be sad not to see our happy-hour regulars for a while,” Johnson said, adding they are getting calls to order since the liquor store is closed.
He and his staff take cleanliness very seriously.
“We are just constantly disinfecting,” Johnson said, adding their last health score was a 99 out of 100. “Our servers are very well-trained in sanitation and hygiene efforts.”
The Pheasant’s full menus are currently available for to-go meals: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday brunch menu. Prepared freezer meals/family meals are available for purchase at any time.
The Wild Hare, Wooden Legs Brewing Co.
The Wild Hare is closed until further notice, according to a message posted near the door:
“The safety of our customers and staff is our top priority right now. In accordance with government recommendations and community safety, we are closed until further notice. We are sorry for any inconvenience and hope to be up to full capacity as soon as possible.
“Stay safe and wash your hands!”
Wooden Legs Brewing Co. owner Seth Koch announced via Facebook Sunday that it was limiting its hours to 4-8 p.m. starting Monday and only offering carry-out and delivery.
“There’s no way to get around this. This thing is for real, this thing is serious,” Koch said. “We deeply care about the health of our community.”
He said the only way to preserve the health of his employees and customers was to force social distancing.
Cinema 8 closed early, until further notice, according to a Sunday post on its Facebook page.
“State Theatre Company has been monitoring health guidelines and orders issued by the CDC as well as federal, state and local officials regarding COVID-19. In the interest of public health, these guidelines have led us to make the difficult decision to cease operations at Cinema 8 following the 7 p.m. showings (March 22) for the time being. We will continue to monitor guidelines issued by officials and update you with respect to re-opening via our website and on our Facebook page.”
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]