Few clients dine in eating places in southern Indiana

Less than five hours before Dale Shelton opened Angie’s Cafe at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, he was at the restaurant with his staff, repeatedly cleaning and disinfecting tables and kitchen utensils.

It has been almost two months since the restaurant last opened its doors before Governor Eric Holcomb closed all non-essential stores and traveled with effect March 24th that could open at 50% capacity – Part of phase 2 of the gradual reopening of the .

But when regulars asked Shelton when the cafe would open and showered the love and support he received on social media, he couldn’t wait.

“Since you are obviously a business owner, you need to get back to work ASAP,” he said. “I just want everyone to be safe.”

Shelton slept for about 90 minutes and woke up at 4:15 a.m. on Monday. He wondered how busy he would be. It turns out not as busy as he wanted.

Some restaurants in southern Indiana are braving the pandemic and welcomed customers to eat inside for the first time in nearly two months, while others remained cautious and just continued service. For those returning to dine-in service, customer engagement was low, well below their average number.

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In the first three hours of operation, 45 customers came to Angie’s Cafe. Shelton said on a regular Monday morning before the pandemic he saw three times that number. The restaurant is staffed to 80 customers, but the staff removed several tables and chairs to meet state guidelines.

It was only the first few hours of the first day, but at this rate Shelton thought it might not be worth staying open. He said it would take about half a year of “normal” business to recover from the losses.

“When you pay your employees, pay your gas and electricity bills, the profit is not enough to make up for the loss,” he said. “We hope that every day will get a little better, so maybe we can make a profit. It will be a long time before we recover. “

Even so, the regulars at Angie’s Cafe, who Shelton said make up 85% of customers, were happy to see their favorite restaurant serving meals again.

“We’re tired of eating in the car and sitting on our laps of ,” said Janice Morrow of Jeffersonville. “It was nice and relaxing to eat something you didn’t cook and to see familiar faces again.”

Donna Schulz, also a regular, saw in a Facebook post that the restaurant was open and came with her husband. The Jeffersonville resident said she would hesitate to eat elsewhere.

“We will be very suspicious. I just know that they are very aware that everything stays under the guidelines, ”said Schulz. “I’m not sure everyone will follow the guidelines, but I know they would for sure. I hesitate to go anywhere now. “

David Barber did not hesitate to travel from Louisville to have at the Habana Blues Tapas Restaurant in New Albany. He disapproved of Governor Andy Beshear’s gradual opening, saying he would cross the bridge to eat at a restaurant every day until he can do so in Kentucky.

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A sign warns customers outside Angie's Cafe in Jeffersonville.

Leo Lopez, owner of Habana Blues Tapas, only made seat reservations to make sure the place wasn’t crowded. He advises people, whether they are eating at his restaurant or elsewhere, to make reservations.

“Because that’s what the directive wants,” said Lopez. “We want everyone to wear masks when they come in.”

He cleared the tables 7 feet apart to keep himself socially distant. With only three tables occupied for the first two hours of operation, which started at 11 a.m., there was ample space for social distancing.

“This is going to be here longer so we just have to live with it,” he said, “so we have to take care of it as best we can”.

When Larry Vogt saw Vic’s Cafe, a staple, was open on Monday, he knew he had to go back. Vogt eats ritually in the restaurant and comes three to four times a week.

When he entered, he was greeted with yellow warning tape, as if entering a crime scene, which spanned several tables to keep them spaced apart.

A handful of customers came in to enjoy food and , although the number was well below the restaurant’s average day. At breakfast, employee Jeanie Bloomer said Vic had 10 customers. On a normal Monday morning it would serve 30.

Owner Gordon Panter noted that opening up again was not an easy decision. As Holcomb said, restaurants that weren’t comfortable didn’t have to do so. But Panter opened Vic’s because his staff told them they wanted to go back to work.

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Eved Carrasco serves lunch to two customers at the Habana Blues Tapas Restaurant in downtown New Albany.

Sales were down 40% and the restaurant has only been operational for two months. The employees have been cleaning and disinfecting every day for weeks and adhere to state guidelines. It was time to get back to work.

“Better to earn a little money than no money,” said Panter.

Tony Impellizzeri’s is a rare restaurant that has seen sales increase. It has doubled since the pandemic, according to owner Tony Impellizzeri. Given the circumstances and the fact that the dining area of ​​the restaurant was too small, there was no rush to open the doors. For now he is thinking of opening in mid-June.

“We normally offer space for 45 people. If you cut it in half, it would still be too tight for social distancing, ”he said.

Despite the surge in sales, there is still a financial hit for servers, according to Server Michelle Beanblossom.

“I get better tips from the table than in a small glass by the window,” she said. “My check depends on how many people I can have in the restaurant to eat and enjoy their evening. There’s only so much you can do when you stand by the window and give them a box. Some people don’t believe in tipping no matter how much you help them. “

Recall:We lost it to the coronavirus in Kentuckiana

Indiana Coronavirus Update

Total number of cases: 24,627

Total deaths: 1,411

Overall tests: 146.688

Clark County: 380 cases, 25 deaths

Floyd County: 232 cases, 29 deaths

David J. Kim: [email protected]; Twitter: @_DavidJKim. Support strong local journalism by signing up today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.

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