On what would have been a busy game day, Kentucky restaurants saw empty chairs at empty tables.
Saturday marked 24 hours since Governor Andy Beshear’s three week indoor dining hiatus started. Restaurants are rolling to-go windows and curbside pick-ups back out.
Columbia Steak House owner Greg Penn said the temporary end to indoor dining cut sales by at least 50%. He said even a robust pickup and delivery program doesn’t cut it.
“We’re a little bit concerned because this is coming up with Christmas, which is one of our really good times and most restaurants and businesses, December’s an awfully good month for them,” Penn said.
Before Christmas catering, there’s football season.
“Football and basketball is really good for us because we’ve always [had] such a tradition,” Penn said. “We’ve been in business so long, so many old customers, that’s been coming in for millions of years.”
Penn said game days are usually loud and long inside his restaurant.
“Rupp used to come here,” he said. “It was a really good time. Of course, now it’s not but, yes, we would be full from the ball games.”
This year, his customers sit on the sidelines.
“It’s just not the same,” said customer Pashia Combs. “You’ve got to eat at home all the time now and you can’t experience different things like going out with your family and friends.”
Even if this year hasn’t been great, loyal customers are still ordering meals well-done.
“We try to support all the local restaurants and Columbia’s has been one of our favorites for years so we try to come here at least a couple of time a month,” said customer Ted Schaffhauser.
Customers don’t only want to keep doors open.
“Unless we want a downtown that’s all boarded up, we’re going to have to really all pool together and support local businesses,” Schaffhauser said.
They also want the employees’ pockets filled.
“It’s really hard on the servers now that it’s holiday time,” Combs said.