For many Richmond establishments, owners knew the recent round of guidelines would affect their business for better or worse.
But now, many of them do not know what the future holds, as the county and state enter their next round of mandated closures.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced a handful of new restrictions for some businesses as a result of the state’s continued increase in coronavirus numbers.
Largely hit once again were bars and restaurants, who are now required to close to in-person service Friday, Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. until Dec. 13.
One of whom is Matthew Winhold, co-owner of the Richmond Beer House, who said in terms of the future, he has no idea.
“As far as the future, we don’t really know right now,” he said Thursday afternoon.
He along with co-owner John Gibson are thankful for the support they have received over the last two and a half years, but are weary of what is to come after the governor’s recent regulations.
After Beshear announced the temporary closure of indoor services to bars and restaurants ahead of Thanksgiving, Winhold feared it was prolonging the inevitable.
He said, the restrictions which began Friday at 5 p.m., were an impedance on any service industry’s best hours.
“These restrictions are popping off Friday at 5 p.m.,” he said. “That is when we make most of our money…. We have to pay our rent at the first of the month, and this basically took our last opportunity to make a decent amount of money and get what we would need to have for a cushion.”
Since the last shutdown, Winhold stated he and Gibson had to be smart about not only sanitation matters, but fiscal awareness as well, including alcohol purchases.
After the first shutdown in March, Winhold stated his business had to sacrifice 18 kegs of beer, and fork up almost $5,000 in alcohol purchases when they were allowed to open again.
At that time, they stayed open to sell growlers to-go, but only made about $100 a week in sales.
“It was like being forced to do everything with nothing,” he said.
This go round, the duo has learned their lesson, and sold all of their merchandise at half price to offload inventory after the announcement of forced closures.
“The first time we were completely caught off guard...This time around we have only got a few kegs that may be left,” he said. “And we are hoping tonight we can sell out of everything as much as we can….We are in salvage mode.”
And as Thursday was the so-called last night out on the town, Winhold hated how all local places had to compete with one another to get people in their business for the last time for several weeks.
“We find that really hard,” he said. “All the bars in town, they all have to go at each other to get the same crowd in order to make it through this. ...As far as the future, we just have to look at the books and see what happens.”
In addition to his administration’s restrictions, Beshear announced a $40 million fund to help a suffering restaurant and bar industry.
The food and beverage relief fund will allow eligible businesses the opportunity to apply for their share of the fund that uses federal dollars from the CARES Act.
Local business owners who qualify will receive $10,000 to use for various costs. He stated the money is not a loan and the maximum amount granted per business owner will be $20,000, meaning that business owners with multiple locations can still only get the maximum amount.
But according to Winhold, that is just a drop in the bucket.
“I think if the small mom-and-pop places get the money, it would be a godsend, it would be wonderful,” he said. “As we saw early on with the PPE loans, we applied and got absolutely nothing. Then you hear of senators that got millions out of that. I think it would be great if the people who got it actually need it.”
Matt Yeast, owner of downtown Richmond’s Burgher Burger shared the same “drop in the bucket” phrase when he heard of the proposed plan of the $40 million fund.
He said this most recent limitation on the industry could be what pushes a bunch of places over.
Personally, Yeast’s business has fluctuated its service adapting as to-go and delivery, limited seating, and at the onset of the pandemic, closed entirely.
“It is just a weird landscape to navigate,” Yeast shared. “We have absolutely no idea. We are at the mercy of the consumer and if they are freaked out and broke, everyone is broke.”
While he said the restrictions were what everyone was expecting as numbers continued to increase, he said he is not sure that this resolution will be the solution many hope it will be.
For now, Burgher Burger will remain open as to-go and delivery only.
Just down the road at Dreaming Creek Brewery, staff are working to set up their outdoor area with heaters, as well as prepare for to-go orders.
“Because we can still do to-go (orders) we will do some business but three weeks is not enough to make or break us,” said co-owner Charley Hamilton. “...We are going to be down for sure. But financially, we will be okay for a while.”
But, everything is not as “rosy” as it would seem. Already, he and his business partner Taryn Edington have taken out an Economic Injury Disaster Loan just to survive.
“We took out a massive EIDL loan to survive — which is what they are there for — but we are going into long-term debt to keep the doors open,” he said.
And like other local business owners, Hamilton also said the $10,000 relief was just a drop in a bucket.
“Forty million dollars sounds great,” he said. “But $10,000 for us is like a drop in the bucket. We appreciate the gesture, but over three weeks, $10,000 is nothing.”
As businesses are forced to close their doors to the community once again, they all agree they don’t know what the future will hold.
“My heart goes out to any other local businesses affected, especially restaurants and bars, and to the community,” Winhold said. “We aren’t just a bar or restaurant, we are a place to-go and seek advice, have a friendly conversation. We aren’t just closing down bars and restaurants, we are talking about closing down families.”
“Even if this is the thing that puts the nail in the coffin, it is not the end of what we are going to be doing. There are always other opportunities and ways to be a part of the community.”