Restaurants react to new gathering limits in Greene County

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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Leaders from the city of Springfield and Greene County announced new gathering limits Tuesday, in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.

As of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, gatherings with 10 or more people are prohibited. The only exemptions are for educational institutions, daycare facilities and daily business operations in Springfield city limits and all of Greene County.

Businesses such as bars, taverns, or food establishments are included in the ordinance. That means restaurants and bars cannot be open, unless for pick-up orders.

Many restaurants and bars downtown were already taking precautions, such as upping their cleaning regimens, asking customers to wash their hands. Some were already trying to protect their staff and their customers.

Now, many businesses are left wondering if they'll be able to survive the shift.

"After this shift, pretty much everybody that's working right now is laid off," said Wendy Hardman, a server and bartender at Maria's Mexican Grill in downtown Springfield.

Springfield's service industry is taking a hit from the coronavirus. The new rules mean, the business simply can't operate like normal.

"A lot of the staff here doesn't have any kind of insurance or back up plan for something like this," Hardman said.

Maria's has partnerships with Grub Hub and Postmates, so they can still take to-go orders, but staff like Wendy won't be filling plates or their pockets.

"People are worried about if they're going to be able to pay their bills," she said.

Down the street at Golden Girl Rum Club, owner Rogan Howitt tried to plan ahead, making big changes before the big announcement.

"We knew we were going to be told that the bar was going to have to close. So we tried to be on top of that and make a plan with our team," Howitt said.

He's only taking to-go orders and had come up with a creative way to appeal to the masses.

"We have a package license to sell liquor that we've already bought as a package, so we're selling cocktail kits for people to make at home because we know they're going to be drinking during this situation," he said.

Howitt said this is a scary situation for small businesses.

"This is probably the first time ever that we've had an uncertainty like this where we don't know if people are going to come out at all," he said.

The truth of the matter is, those employed through service, now, have hardly anyone to serve.

"Everybody is being affected by this, whether it's direct or indirect," Hardman said.

Both Howitt and Hardman said gift cards are another great way to support small businesses. It puts money in their pockets right now that they can use to pay bills or pay employees, that you can redeem later.

Unless the new order is extended, the limit for group gatherings will go back to 49 through April 15.

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