While some local restaurants opened their doors and welcomed customers as soon as possible under the new guidelines, others have taken a more cautious route. Regardless of which path they chose, everyone is still figuring how to most effectively operate while providing a relaxing dining atmosphere.
Don Mario’s in downtown Owensboro was among those who greeted customers on May 22, the first day Gov. Andy Beshear allowed Kentucky restaurants to reopen their dining rooms at 33% capacity while also providing unlimited outdoor seating.
Owner Oralis Radilla said the restaurant was eager to get some patrons after shuttering their doors for several weeks.
“Since we have reopened it has been super exciting because it has been great, to be honest,” Radilla said. “We have a lot of people come out to support our local business downtown and everyone is excited to get in here.”
The hardest part for her has been figuring out the balance between staff and customers in terms of capacity. Too few waiters meant service could be lacking, but every extra staff member equals one fewer customer.
“The demand is so high right now that customers are aggressive, and they’re not even waiting for us to sanitize their table,” Radilla said.
Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn co-owner Patrick Bosley said they would rather be safe than sorry, so they delayed their reopening to June 1 to “avoid any potential crush of people going out to eat.”
“We did a soft opening and we’ve done what we wanted to accomplish,” Bosley said. “It was challenging because you had no expectation. Even now there’s no expectation. It’s all unknown, how much food you buy, how much food you cook. It is a big challenge to predict what you need to do.”
Bosley said he has the staff power but not the customer volume he’d like to be able to open the buffet again — plus he has to weigh the costs, waste and added safety requirements that come with it.
Alex Barton, general manager at Bar Louie, said he wanted to ease into reopening by rehiring some of his people back a few at a time. However, he learned quickly that he was short-staffed because turnout was better than what he expected.
“We were definitely busier than I thought we would be,” he said. “The only challenge I’ve had was staffing because I didn’t know I was going to need so many people, but I got that figured out quickly.”
On Tuesday, Beshear announced businesses will be able to increase their capacity from 33% to 50% after they have been back in operation for one month.