Although allowed to offer service indoors following state health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many downtown restaurant and bar owners have had to temporarily shut down again because of the virus.
A number of downtown establishments, including Hayley’s, Roosters, Bob’s Downtown Restaurant, Loda Bier Garten, Moe’s Original BBQ and El Papi have all closed temporarily in the last week or so due to the pandemic.
Hayley’s reopened on Sunday, July 5, after having to close earlier in the week because a server had been in contact with someone else who tested positive for the virus.
“It has been a stressful week,” co-owner Delane Bond said. “We’re just trying to be as careful as we can.”
Bond said she wants the bar to be a place where people feel safe, so she took the time to make sure none of the staff tested positive before opening back up.
Tony Sawyer, owner of Bob’s Downtown Restaurant, had a similar situation. Sawyer said a server at the restaurant was not feeling well. He decided to close up shop and ordered everyone to get tested.
“We’re waiting to get results back before I make the next step,” he said. “As a business owner you have to do the right thing. You have to sit back, suck it up and do the right thing for your employees and customers.”
Sawyer said he really has no control over the situation and is not happy about it.
“It’s very frustrating for me as a business owner to build a dream you’ve always had and all of a sudden this happens and you have no control over it,” he said.
As of Monday, July 6, Bob’s has not reopened because some employees were still awaiting test results.
Alabama continues to see a rise in cases of COVID-19, and Mobile County, which includes a large metropolitan area, still has one of the largest concentrations of cases in the state, behind only Montgomery and Jefferson counties.
Mobile County has seen the seven-day average of positive cases continue to increase to 656, Mobile County Health Department personnel confirmed in an email Monday, July 6. However, new cases fell to just 40 on Sunday, July 5, and 70 on July 4. The county has had more than 4,000 positive cases so far.
In a Facebook post, Loda Bier Garten owner Matt Golden announced the downtown location was closing temporarily on July 2 after an employee at the location found out they had come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“The safety of our employees, guests and the community is our number one priority, which is why we have made the decision to temporarily close our downtown location until we have more information on the health and wellbeing of our entire downtown LoDa family,” the post read. “Please know that we are, and will continue to be, vigilant in our efforts to use best practices, sanitation and social distancing. During this temporary closure, our downtown restaurant will be sanitized and deep cleaned thoroughly. And as before, all staff will continue to wear masks once we reopen.”
The restaurant has since reopened after a “thorough deep cleaning,” a post on Sunday read.
El Papi closed temporarily on June 25 after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. According to a Facebook post making the announcement, all El Papi staff members were to be tested and cleared before returning to work.
“There’s nothing more important than taking the proper measures to ensure the well-being of our staff and guests,” the post read. “We look forward to getting our doors back open.”
Roosters owner Frankie Little also announced on Facebook and in an email to mobile app users the restaurant would be closed temporarily starting July 2. In the message, Little wrote an employee hadn’t tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19.
“This was not an easy decision, but one we feel will be best for the health of our staff and their families, as well as our guests and community,” the letter read. “We hold out hope that this new rise in cases declines so that we can all get back to normal as quickly as possible. We can’t wait to safely welcome you back to our dining room soon.”
David Rasp, owner of Heroes Sports Bar & Grille, told Lagniappe he closed his downtown location on Monday, July 6, and reopened on Tuesday, July 7, due to staffing issues. His plan going forward is to open up both the downtown and West Mobile locations on a Tuesday to Saturday rotation. As for the other restaurants downtown, Rasp said low staffing levels could be an issue.
“Most of us are dealing with skeleton crews and in this day and age where you have to quarantine if you’ve been exposed, they’re not going to let them work until their test results come back,” Rasp said. “It leaves them shorthanded, when under normal conditions you’d be able to deal more easily with someone being out. In the future, I think you’re going to see more closings and reopenings.”
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