It’s no secret that the pandemic has put a major strain on local restaurants over the last year. Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn Owner Patrick Bosely on Wednesday said his restaurant — like so many others — has suffered financial setbacks so serious that they are relying on local, state and federal relief funds to keep their doors open.
During a virtual COVID-19 update with Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, Bosley said that while the pandemic had affected all restaurants negatively, there was a drastic difference between the way casual dining establishments such as Moonlite had been affected in comparison to fast food chains.
“It’s brutal, just brutal,” Bosley said. “With restaurants, we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.”
Both dine-in food sales and catering sales had plummeted by 60% at Moonlite, Bosley said.
Moonlite in particular took a big hit during the pandemic because of a struggling tourism industry. Bosley said 50% of Moonlite’s dine-in sales stemmed from tourism, which had been “decimated” over the last year.
For example, ROMP Music Festival and the International Bar-B-Q Festival were cancelled in 2020 — events that Bosley said had been huge sources of revenue in past years.
With big events such as weddings and holiday festivities either being cancelled or postponed to limit large gatherings, Moonlite’s catering industry had also suffered a dramatic loss in revenue.
“Without federal assistance, I don’t know that we’d still be in business,” Bosley said.
Mattingly asked Bosley how he’d managed to retain his employees when so many of them were working limited hours and taking home a fraction of what they needed to survive. Again, Bosley said it all came down to operating on a deficit.
“We’re losing money every week we’re open, and it’s a commitment to being in business for the next year. It’s a commitment to taking care of your help,” he said. “You’re trying to keep them with your company so they don’t leave. You dip into your own reserves. You dip into your own pockets. You dip into any program that you can find that helps you.”
Bosley said the hope for a better future — one where more vaccinations were administered and a dissipating pandemic no longer controlled the economy -— was what kept restaurants like Moonlite from closing their doors for good.
But that hopeful mindset would not be enough to save all local restaurants, Bosley noted.
“I don’t know how long some businesses can hang on,” he continued. “There’s going to come a point — like a domino effect — where these businesses start failing. I think we will see more restaurants close in the Owensboro/Daviess County community before the pandemic is over.”
If there was anything consumers could do to help restaurants during this trying time, Bosley recommended buying gift certificates, eating local and encouraging employers to support the catering industry.
“We’re depending on money now that we’re borrowing. Our cash reserves have run out,” he said. “Restaurants operate on a razor-thin profit margin anyway. At 50% occupancy, all restaurants are struggling.”