Restaurants, patrons feel the crunch with immediate closures

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Capitol Street area in downtown Charleston, a normal hub for lunch-goers in the capital city, was quieter on Wednesday.

The period was less than 24 hours after Gov. Jim Justice orders all restaurants, bars and casinos to close for two weeks with the exception of carryout, delivery and drive-thru services, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It is what it is. We all have to hunker down and deal with this together,” Allen Barry, a Charleston resident told MetroNews during his lunch break. “I get it’s frustrating for a lot of people but I think it’s necessary.

“I’m not a public health official but you have to rely on the sources that can be trustworthy and they all seem to be indicating that ‘hey this is a scary thing.'”

Barry, who works in downtown and said he eats out nearly every workday for lunch, was with a group that ordered takeout at Super Weenie. The hot dog establishment was adjusting by limiting only six patrons inside at one time, with some waiting outside for orders.

Close down the road to Super Weenie is Adelphia Sports Bar and Grille. Owner Deno Stanley appeared on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and said he is closing up complete shop during this period.

Stanley, who is also the president of the Food Service Division of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association (WVHTA), said around 90 percent of restaurants are doing carryout and trying out different things like close delivery.

He said they are asking the federal government for help with a stimulus package such as low interest or no interest funding.

“We had big staff meetings with dozens of employees and said ‘everybody hunker down and cut everything to a minimum with your spending,'” he said.

“I am prepared to help with a personal stimulus with my employees for as long as possible and then we will need a bailout from the government.”

Carol Fulks, the Executive Director of WVHTA , said she has reached out to federal officials for help with funding and to look into disaster assistance loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

SBA released an updated criteria list on Tuesday for states requesting disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for each affected small business.

Fulks told MetroNews she was thankful that Justice left the door open for carryout and other options. However, she said time is ticking in many places.

“We are hoping this is a month at maximum,” she said. “Our small mom and pop restaurants and some of our smaller businesses will have a hard time surviving if this goes more than 30 days.”

Larger chains such as Tudor’s Biscuit World and Gino’s Pizza and Spaghetti House may be able to stay open longer but vice president of the two restaurants, Greg Atkinson, said it’s still going to take its toll.

“We’re still providing full menus, we are still normal operating hours,” he told MetroNews affiliate WMOV on Wednesday.

“We are trying to do our very best to take care of all of those regular customers that are so good to eat with us, day in and day out. We want to try and do everything we can to support them at this difficult time.”

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