Risky business: Local restaurants attempt to make it work as quarantine continues

Local Businesses like Spencer’s Coffee remain open for carryout only. Only fivecustomers are allowed in the store at once for safety.

Michael J. Collins

This story was published in the May 8 final print issue. Read the full issue here. 

Forty-two days after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued the executive order that closed indoor dining and made social distancing measures mandatory in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Many expected quarantine to last two weeks to a month, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 since then has left many businesses torn between limiting COVID-19 spread and reopening their stores.

Yan Tan, owner and manager of the Great American Donut Shop, said that while she’s confident that GADS will remain open through quarantine, income has taken a large hit.

“Since the governor issued the stay-at-home order and closed indoor dining, traffic has been very slow,” Tan said.

“We’re coasting financially right now until we can fully open, but I don’t think business will ever be the same because there will still be the fear that this pandemic is lurking.”

Tan’s fear that normalcy is a long way off is not unfounded. Experts say social distancing, with or without stay-at-home orders, will have to continue through the summer and likely intermittently until 2022.

White Squirrel Brewery and 440 Main Restaurant began raising money to feed local families in need and pay wages to unemployed staff members. The GoFundMe page has gathered $2,215, enough to feed over 200 locals and provide an income to staff members who can not work.

Courtney Holland, general manager of White Squirrel Brewery, said the people of Bowling Green have played a large role in making sure local businesses are able to make it through this difficult period.

“The locals in the community have been so helpful, they’ve been supporting us and feeding families in need, and we can’t thank them enough,” Holland said.

Holland said that while traffic has been slow, the changes made in response to COVID-19 have helped to make sure the business stays in operation for the time being without needing financial assistance.

“We still offer curbside service, and we’re selling beer at a discounted rate, so that’s going quick,” Holland said. “We’ve definitely had to make changes to adjust to the virus. I’ve had to cut my whole staff except for four.”

Brie Golliher, the “Pie Queen of Bowling Green,” owns the Boyce General Store with her husband, Brad.

Goliher said local patrons have helped mitigate the loss of tourist traffic, but sales is far from normal.

“We have been completely blessed by our community, and we’ve had pretty solidly steady business on Fridays and Saturdays when we are open,” Golliher said.

“I’m not trying to be in the profit right now. I’m just trying to take care of the crew I have and keep the bills paid.”

Golliher said the length of quarantine was a surprise to her and her husband, but now that more information about COVID-19 is available to the public they’ve been able to look towards the future more clearly.

“I really expected quarantine to last about a month,” Golliher said. “Our normal summers entail lines out the door and tons of people here, and I really don’t think that’s going to be a possibility for a long time.”

Brie said online pie sales have significantly increased since quarantine began, a success she attributes to her ability to solve problems creatively and boost social media coverage.

“I’m a problem solver, so I’m just gonna make it work with whatever gets thrown at me,” Golliher said. “I like to think of myself as a ‘sur-pie-vor.’ We’re going into week seven of all this, and I feel like we have a rhythm to make things work.”

News reporter Michael J. Collins can be reached and [email protected] Follow Michael on Twitter at @NotMichaelJColl.