Restaurant owners say current reopening status not enough to sustain business

More Vermont restaurants are saying they are not going to survive if Gov. Phil Scott’s coronavirus-related economic restrictions continue much longer.

Under current restrictions, restaurants and bars can have outdoor seating, and customers must be spaced apart according to social distancing guidelines. Indoor dining is limited to 25 percent of legal capacity under state rules as of June 8.

Carol Paquette, the owner of Sarducci’s Italian Restaurant in Montpelier, told True North the governor’s restrictions are making it hard to earn a profit.

“It’s not what we were built to be. We were built to have a restaurant with the tables all full, and now they are not,” she said. “It’s very strange, and the four tables are wonderful [for outside] but they are full all day.”

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In Vermont, restaurants are having a hard time getting their customers back. Even when they do open indoor seating, they must limit themselves to 25 percent of legal capacity, making it hard to earn money.

“We’re doing what we can, and it’s like being in a dream — that’s what it feels like. All of a sudden I woke up in a bad dream and it never went away.”

Like many other businesses in the state, Sarducci’s had to lay off most of its staff, except for the chef, some kitchen crew and two managers.

Asked if the shutdown initiatives from the governor seem sensible given that the coronavirus has turned out to be far less lethal than was initially predicted, Paquette said that’s a tough call.

“I think he is doing the best he can with the best education and staff that he has,” she said. “Right now we are doing everything like wearing gloves and masks. I’ve got guys in a hundred degree kitchen wearing masks and all of the rest of us are having our masks. If it means that we’re not going to have another breakout, then I’m happy to do it.”

Emily Cook, who helps run Royalton Village Pizza in Royalton, said the business is doing OK, but the partial-opening currently allowed by executive order doesn’t really help much.

“The new guidelines, we can’t do anything with those,” she said. “Twenty-five percent capacity is two tables, so it’s not worth kicking our kids out of the dining room to have two tables fill up. So we just keep plugging away doing what we’re doing.”

She said currently staff bring orders outside and set them on the table, and most of the payments are transacted over the phone.

Cook said she agrees with the governor’s slow, cautious approach to opening the state back up for business.

“I don’t think it’s too soon; I think that what the governor is doing is safe,” she said. “I think that waiting to see how Memorial Day played out is good. I also think [it’s good to see] how the groups gathering together for the protests … pans out with COVID.”

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Asked about how restaurants are surviving hardships, Maggie Wilson, communications director for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, said they need everyone’s support.

“Restaurants and small businesses across Vermont need help to survive the impact of COVID-19,” she said in an email. “Listening to our state’s restaurants and supporting their needs during these challenging times will help keep our communities healthy in the long term.”

Last month the Vermont Restaurant Coalition put out a petition calling for grant support to help the industry survive. The group has gathered more than 7,000 signatures.

On the petition are photos of restaurant workers holding signs that read “#Don’t86Us.” A Twitter user posted a message about opening again using the hashtag.

According to an April study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, about 30 percent of business owners expect to survive if the shutdowns persist another four months. If the restrictions last beyond six months, the state could lose 85 percent of its restaurants.

The petition by the Vermont Restaurant Coalition expresses urgency: “We are here to let you know that the Vermont Restaurant Industry is in crisis and we need your support. Without easily accessible direct aid many restaurants will close permanently.”

In Bethel, Maine, restaurant owner Rick Savage, who runs the Sunday River Brewing Co., says he’s had enough of the shutdown and it’s time to reopen, with or without his governor’s blessing.

“We’ve had enough of it, we’re encouraging all businesses in Maine to open up,” he said. “We should have never been shut down in the first place.”

In Colorado, a restaurant called Castle Rock reopened against its state’s shutdown orders.

“We are standing for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against the overreach of our governor in Colorado!!” they restaurant owners posted on Twitter.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

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10 thoughts on “Restaurant owners say current reopening status not enough to sustain business

  1. If government is turning servers into public health workers & police – restaurants are being forced to take names, addresses & phone# from each customer for contact tracing – count me out. I do not need to spend my money to support a business running a police state tantamount to asking for ‘our papers please’. Bad optics so doing it this way legitimizes the crime? Nor are police required or allowed to randomly canvass citizens for private info. Extremely unfair since all business are not forced to do this.

    Where does the info go – a database which is monitored by Contact Tracers who have passed a mere certificate course. Linking us to LE in the event we were in same building as a supposed Covid-case then dragged out of our home in some instances to be force-quarantined?

    Violates the right to privacy to commandeer private business to do perform public health or police work on behalf of the state.

    • And there are too many unmasked such as myself who refuse to be subjugated into wearing a mask so the smug selfrighteous collectivists – mostly Democrats – can officiously continue to boss everyone around while nurturing their chronic illness – a sick superiority complex.

  2. The Bennington selectors and town manager identified the root cause of the problem and passed a resolution telling people they could take off their masks when eating. — No kidding, they are really this stupid! If they weren’t they would be embarrassed to be in public. Now expand the concept to the people voting for them and you have the identified the problem.

  3. What if restaurant owners opened up and let “protestors” come into their establishments. We could fill up your tables and place orders while holding up card board signs, saying stuff like ‘RESTAURANT OWNERS LIVES MATTER’, or “NO FISHnCHIPS, NO PEACE” Hey,… Gov. Scott himself said it is our constitutional right to protest. Ok, well this foolishness has gone on far too long. We all know the truth and it is time to stop scaring people with lies about the supposed severity of a virus in which 99% of the people SURVIVE. The insanity must end. Any takers on my above proposal?

    • No fishnchips no peace for me, hold the tartar sauce!

      I love you can have a party on the front lawn with a 5,000 people, you can shop with millions of visits in the local Walmart, but we can’t find a way to safely vote!

      Please stop the insanity, non of this makes any sense. And get this we have a limit of 25 people can be shown a house at once, no more than that! That has never happened ever in the entire state for it’s entire existence. Seriously, do these people have ANY business experience? Any medical experience?

    • Scott and staff are out of their league. It’s one thing to be cautious, but being totally risk averse for no good reason, using faulty models, while completely destroying our economy is criminal.

  4. Long ago, back on March 23, we had a Dr. Zelenko say he’d had remarkable success with treating patients with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc sulfate, and the logic for this treatment was sound and was backed by physicians elsewhere. What happened then? There was a rush to run trials and give hydroxychloroquine to sick patients in the hospital. Result? No good, maybe even harm. Those were the headlines. Shortly thereafter, we find that two studies testing hydroxychloroquine in hospitals published in top medical journals were complete junk and had to be retracted (anyone hear about that?) No one has yet tested the actual protocol when the medications are given before, not after, the virus overwhelms the patient: in outpatient settings.

    Enter stage left a group of eight physicians who claim they have an effective treatment for Covid using methylprednisolone, vitamin C, and heparin, with remarkable results. The protocol, cheap and readily available, was sent to the White House and one of the doctors testified before the Senate. The logic for the treatment is medically sound, if somewhat unorthodox and contradictory to WHO recommendations. Result? Nothing. No one cares. All they want to do is wait for a vaccine.

    We should be demanding that the Vermont health authorities pick up the phone and talk to Dr. Zelenko, and we should be demanding they find out what these doctors who claim to have an effective treatment for ER patients are doing, because the federal authorities have eyes focused on the profits a vaccine will bring and are blind to everything else.

    Does anyone really want to solve this? If the Governor cares so much about Vermont business then he should pick up the phone and call the people who say they’d cracked the Covid code. The number is 415-383-2949. Tell Dr. Kornfeld that you’re tired of listening to Dr. Fauci and want solutions. Tell him you want to open up and that we don’t want any surges– and will therefore consider Dr. Zelenko’s outpatient protocol for any initial infections– and if we do have sick patients, we want the safest and most effective treatment out there. Tell him you’re tired of the people whose only solution is some far-off and possibly unachievable vaccine.

  5. Let’s see limit sitting in restaurants and other areas where normal thinking
    people will stay within the social distancing guidelines but the Governor
    feels it’s not safe

    But if you protest, social distancing doesn’t matter, no guidelines, that’s because
    they know best and the Governor seems Ok with it ……..

    Leadership, something missing in Montpelier, inept is front & center.

  6. You can barely cover operating expenses due to our seriously seasonal nature, to ask people to try and run a business with 75% less income is insane, absolutely insane.

    Can the governor run the state on 75% less income?

    People are clearly demonstrating NO understanding of the restaurant business or business in general.

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