Business is scarce for all Athens businesses when students are out of town, but it has proven to be even more scarce when residents are supposed to stay inside, too.
Many food and beverage serving establishments in Athens, like Donkey Coffee, The Pub Bar and Grill and Bagel Street Deli, have closed their dining rooms and are now offering take-out services due to the coronavirus.
Others, like Restaurant Salaam, 21 W. Washington St., had to reduce their services even more drastically.
“We asked all of our employees to go ahead and apply for unemployment and (said) that we would shut down the restaurant as much as possible to avoid having huge bills to pay that we could not manage,” Hilarie Burhans, co-owner and executive chef of Salaam, said. “We then decided to open for ... pre-ordered and prepaid meals on just Friday and Saturday nights that my husband and I could cook on our own.”
For the Burhans, this is an effort to both assist with Salaam’s bills and use up the ingredients they have as well as support local farmers. The offering of meals reflects a much smaller menu.
“The gardens don't know that there's a pandemic,” Burhans said. “They keep making lettuce, and that's great for us.”
Salaam is now taking call-ahead orders, which are prepaid only. Burhans said she hoped to keep the exchange as contactless as possible. Salaam is having arranged times for customers to pick up the food from a table on Burhans’ back porch.
Other establishments, like Donkey Coffee, 17 W. Washington St., are still open for carry-out and online ordering with greatly reduced hours and employees.
“We went from a staff of 18 people to six,” Ben Ziff, a manager at Donkey Coffee, said. “That was a pretty horrible day.”
Ziff said business at Donkey wasn’t so bad at first, thanks to an influx of parents and students leaving campus, but around the past three days, business has decreased.
For The Pub, 39 N. Court St., business has also majorly decreased.
“It’s definitely been less busy,” Cait Edwards, a daytime manager at The Pub, said. “It's also a hit or miss depending on the weather, too, since it's only carry-out.”
Edwards said a lot of recent business came from workers at hair salons, banks and offices uptown, but with the recent closures, business has diminished a little more each day.
As time goes on, Edwards said The Pub is just taking it day by day.
“You can’t really predict anything in this whole situation right now,” Edwards said.
Bagel Street Deli, 27 S. Court St., has also seen a hit in business, Michael Wasko, a line cook, said. However, he also said business has sometimes been steadier due to many other restaurants being closed.
“We seem to be open as far as I know,” Wasko said. “We're still open … indefinitely.”
Despite the hard times put upon everyone, Burhans said Salaam saw a great outreach of support for the community when it closed normal operations.
“The community was incredibly gracious,” Burhans said. “We requested that people purchase gift certificates for the time that we actually do reopen and can we hire our staff and so forth. The community response was absolutely wonderful.”
Edwards echoed the sentiment of supporting local businesses.
“When you go out to the grocery stores, shop local,” she said. “If you are out to get lunch, go to at locally owned restaurants. Don't go to chain restaurants. Try to support the local economy as much as you possibly can during these hard times because definitely everybody's suffering.”