Restaurant owners continue to struggle to survive as Gov. Phil Scott ratchets up ever-increasing restrictions on business.
Last week, Scott said bars and clubs must be closed completely. And while restaurants are restricted to 50 percent capacity indoors, they must close down at 10 p.m., and patrons are required to wear masks when not at a table.
Carol Paquette, the owner of Sarducci’s Italian Restaurant in Montpelier, told True North by phone that the restriction on bars is falling hard on bartenders.
[The bar is not] “the biggest part of the business, but it’s a part that people really enjoy, and it gives a job for the bartenders, so that part is sad,” she said.
“The numbers have gotten really out of hand and everybody has to do what they have to do, so in that, I am very willing to do my part. But I feel sad because when we got to open the bar it felt very encouraging, and I knew that come fall things would change — but I feel that things have really changed.”
Paquette said that aside from the regulations, there’s the fact that people are just fearful.
“People seem not comfortable to come inside, and we’re still doing a lot of the curbside business, but besides that it’s grim,” she said.
In the whole state, there have been 64 deaths associated with the Coronavirus since March.
Paquette said it’s better to be safe, but the uncertainty is challenging for business owners.
“It’s not like my restaurant has to be closed. If it’s just the bar that has to be closed then OK,” she said. “I don’t know what’s next, and I’m scared of what’s next. … I will tell you that at a certain point, we won’t survive. These businesses won’t survive, we can’t survive on curbside alone — I can probably survive for a few months but that would be it.”
Mandy Hotchkiss is the co-owner of Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero, which has been in business for 16 years. The company has a new summer location called Blue Paddle at the Bay. She said at the new location they were able to be outdoors in large spaces, and at the original location they’ve also focused on outdoors and takeout.
She said with these adjustments they’ve been able to continue forward.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been challenging,” Hotchkiss said. “I’ve lost sleep. … [I’m] just concerned about not knowing what’s going to happen. A lot of people don’t even want to go out to do takeout. … And also after a long period of time people’s discretionary income starts to dry up.”
She says for the time being her business is not doing indoor seating “because of the intimacy and how small [the] restaurant is.”
Hotchkiss added that at some point things should get back to normal, but only if people stay safe.
“We’re going to get back to normal when everybody says ‘OK, for this short amount of time we’re all going to do what we’re supposed to do.’ … If people just do what the scientists say, wear your mask, social distance six feet apart, use the hand sanitizer, and if we do this for two months and the vaccines are coming, we’ll come out of it.”