Berea restaurant owner reflects on extra steps taken during pandemic to keep customers safe

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BEREA, Ky. (WDKY) – Back in March, Berea was the first college in Kentucky to cancel their semester over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight months later, local businesses and restaurants in the area are continuing to play it safe when it comes to health guidelines and restrictions.

“The shutdowns are not what’s hurting the restaurant industry. What’s hurting the restaurant industry is that we have this coronavirus that’s literally killing thousands and thousands of people,” co-owner of Noodle Nirvana Mae Suramek said.

Suramek describes her restaurant as “socially conscious,” and her actions throughout the pandemic have reflected that.

“In March when the governor declared the first shutdown, we actually shut down all of our services for a couple of months as we tried to figure out how to survive,” Suramek said. “When we re-opened in July, we did not reopen the dining room, and we won’t until there’s a vaccine.”

Not only were they ahead of the curve on eliminating indoor dining, they also started requiring customers to wear face masks before it was required by the state.

FOX 56’s Andrea Walker asked them what the public’s reaction has been to them taking those measures early on.

“I would say 99% of the time it’s been really positive. There are a few who have had issues, but our customers and staff are really grateful that we’re all in this together in trying to keep everyone safe,” Suramek said.

She feels confident they’re handling the pandemic the right way, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. They’ve had to streamline their menu and cut down their hours of operation.

“It’s all about survival right now, nobody’s getting rich here. Any restaurants that are still standing are just doing so to pay the bills, to pay their people, and to make sure we come out of this on the other side,” Suramek said.

December and January are typically the slowest months for the restaurant industry. Suramek suggests buying gift cards from your favorite locally owned restaurants this holiday season to help offset their losses.

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