Bars, restaurants collaborate on reopening strategies

May 14, 2020

They’re normally competitors, but when it comes to measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many in the bar and restaurant industry have become collaborators.

“For the most part, we’re friends with everyone in this industry,” said John Geiken, general manager of PAve. “So when it came time to deal with what we’re all going through, we felt it was best if we got on the same page and helped each other out.”

PAve worked with Wileys to agree the downtown bars would open on the same day and consider using many of the same practices.

“We thought coming out with a unified format would be helpful for everyone,” Geiken said. “We both knew that going back as if nothing had happened was not what we wanted to do. We knew communicating with each other would be helpful to make sure one of us didn’t try coming out doing that right away, just to be on the same page.”

Instead of reopening heading into a weekend, as they could have last week, both chose to do a midweek opening.

PAve is closing at midnight on weekends and is taking big steps to limit its use as a dance club.

“We will not be having a live DJ for the time being. We’ll also not be encouraging the dance floor. We won’t have our dance lights on,” Geiken said. “It’s hard to say ‘no dancing,’ but we’re not encouraging it. We’re going to take our jukebox down so people can’t play music, and we’ll play a select playlist and try to control the vibe.”

The business took out a lot of tables and chairs, and spent two weeks cleaning top to bottom, he added.

“I think most people will be excited to get on our patio, which we are as well, and that was our biggest thing to get going,” he said.

While the business has a 900-person occupancy limit, “we won’t even come close to that,” Geiken added. “We’ll be monitoring it. If we have to start a line, that’s what we have to do. We’re definitely not wanting to pack the place.”

He also has been talking with other downtown bar and restaurant owners and said there’s a common theme that while they need to start bringing in more business, they want to do it safely.

“I know there’s been some (around town) that maybe haven’t done that right away. I get all the texts and pictures sent, and I know who they are, and it is what it is. I can’t control them,” Geiken said.

“All I can control is what we’re going to do. At the end of the day, I feel like if we tried our best and did what we could do to prevent an outbreak, my staff and myself will be able to sleep a bit easier. I’m literally worried about another outbreak. I don’t want to be the facilitator of that and wish people would be mindful of that.”

Mark Fonder, who owns The Barrel House and Krav’n, is taking a similar approach.

He also chose not to open Mother’s Day weekend and has collaborated, among others, with Todd Porter, who has franchises for four different restaurants in town, on best practices.

“I wanted to make sure my staff was ready, so I had an all-staff meeting, and it’s been going good,” he said. “We had a lot of support from to-go orders, and we had a lot of people come in happy to be back to somewhat normal, whatever that’s going to be.”

He has removed tables and chairs to create more natural distancing and put signs on booths that are unavailable. There are hand sanitizer stands at the door, and staff members are trained to seat people strategically.

“We had a party of 18 come in, and we told them they can sit in the same area, but we gave them three tables,” Fonder said. “It looks kind of bare, but at least we’ve got some income coming in.”

The patios also are helpful at spreading out people at his restaurants.

“Hopefully, people are responsible. There’s people who are very, very cautious, which I respect, and others that think they’ve had it and are immune to it and will do what they want to do,” Fonder said.

“That’s the hard balance is trying to please everyone. But our main concern is making sure our staff and our customers are safe. Our staff has been washing hands and sanitizing repetitively, over and over, because my whole thing is if we have an outbreak, we’re shut down, and you don’t have a job. I think they know how serious it is.”

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Bars, restaurants collaborate on reopening strategies

They’re normally competitors, but when it comes to measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many in the bar and restaurant industry have become collaborators.

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