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Traditionally St. Patrick’s Day is a busy day for the food and beverage industry as folks celebrate, dining on corned beef and cabbage, and washing it down with green beer. However, in these unprecedented times, area restaurant owners began making changes to the way they do business on the Irish holiday.
“This is the first time. I remember when closing on a snow day of 8 to 10 inches was a huge deal around here. And that was even hard for us sometimes, to even shut down for that. This is unlike anything else,” said Ryan Anderes, who, along with Jim Lannen Jr. own The Uptown Grill in La Salle.
Earlier this week, Gov. JB Pritzker ordered all Illinois bars and restaurants to close their doors to dine-in customers following business Monday night through March 30 in response to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. As a result, employees may still enter restaurants, with drive-through and pickup services allowed.
This order has prompted many local restaurant owners to change the way they do business in an effort to stay open. The Uptown Grill is offering curbside pick-up for carryout orders from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 4 to 7:30 p.m. for dinner.
Bobbi Affelt, of La Salle, said she often picks up dinner at The Uptown Grill for herself and her husband, but Tuesday’s dinner was a bit different.
“I’m trying to help the restaurants,” she said from inside her red four-door sedan. “I’m kind of doing it on purpose now. I’ve got food at home that I put in the freezer. We’ve got to keep these restaurants going.”
That supportive sentiment was echoed by Trent Threadgill as he picked up dinner Tuesday night at Burger And Sushi House in Ottawa.
“For us, with a lot of small businesses doing the carryout, me and my wife went out of our way to try and make it a priority to order,” said Threadgill, of Ottawa, from the parking spaces designated for curbside pickup in front of the restaurant.
“This was awesome…I texted my wife and said, ‘Can you put in an order?’ She called and paid online so everything was paid for. She tipped online and I just rolled right up in here. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.”
BASH employs 80 people with 40 being staffed on a usual Friday or Saturday night. With the ban of dine-in customers, owner Cody Renkosik said he has about 10 employees working in the restaurant at one time. BASH is offering curbside pick-up and delivery Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.
“At first it was staff,” Renkosik said of his initial concern following the Sunday announcement. “And then after one lunch, a two-hour period, it became a little more about how are we going to make it as a restaurant. Because if BASH doesn’t survive, that is our staff…they are BASH.”
Chanel Renkosik, Cody’s wife and BASH co-owner, said they are trying to be as fair as possible with staff scheduling, while some members have voluntarily given up hours so others who are more likely to feel the financial strain are able to work. In an effort to offset some of the missed wages, 10% of BASH gift certificates purchased will go to the employees.
“It’s impossible to be fair because we can’t staff them all. That would be the really fair thing, to staff them all,” Cody said. “How does this week pan out? Is it worth being open next week? Would it be more beneficial to them to collect unemployment if we’re going to have to downsize that much?”
The welfare of his employees has been a concern for Anderes as well, with just a fraction of his staff working to offer carry-out orders.
“Any time you have to shut down you’re not only worried about the product that you have to use up in the restaurant; you only have so much time before there are things that will go bad. But you also have employees that don’t have the opportunity to work. So closing at any time is a difficult decision,” he said.
Anderes's parents, Ray and Rita Anderes, opened The Uptown Grill 35 years ago. Currently Ray and his daughter Rene work at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating in Ottawa. With folks having to eat at home, Ryan Anderes said the food-delivery business has seen a spike in orders so some of the employees from The Uptown Grill will be working with the elder Anderes through March 30 to help supplement lost hours.
“We had a lot of people, once the news broke, who said they’ll see us over the next couple of weeks. They’ll be in for carry-outs. A lot of regular customers have let us know that we will still see their faces,” Anderes said. “We debated, ‘Do we stay open? Do we close?’ And we just felt like staying open was something that we owed the community.”
For an online listing of local restaurants offering curbside pickup or carryout during the in-house dining ban, please visit mywebtimes.com or newstrib.com. To submit a restaurant for the list, email Brent Bader at firstname.lastname@example.org and include "Buzz Restaurant" in the subject line.