Restaurants react to dining restrictions


SILVERHILL – Less than a week after Gov. Kay Ivey ordered all restaurants in Alabama to stop serving meals in dining rooms, the response has been different for eating establishments around Baldwin County.

Some have continued offering take-out service, some have shut down temporarily. Some have cut staff and some are still keeping all employees working. All are taking financial losses.

Ivey prohibited gatherings in restaurants and bars until at least April 5 in an effort to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

At Café Acadiana in Silverhill, owner Gerald Ardoin worked with an employee to move shelves in a storage area on Tuesday. He said he plans to keep all his workers employed even though it might mean assigning them other jobs, such as cleaning a warehouse.

“We’re making it work,” Ardoin said. “It’s certainly the strangest times that we’ve ever seen. We have a contingency fund that we prepared for a hurricane or a tree falling on the building or something catastrophic that would put me out of business for a few weeks, we have a contingency fund for that to take care of our employees. Now, we’re in it.

He said that, so far, his take-out business is about 60 percent of what he would serve on a typical week. He credited loyal customers for turning out and helping support his and other restaurants. Ardoin also said staffers reported that tips were higher than usual from customers trying to help out.

Even so, he said that he will lose $1,500 to $2,000 a week keeping the restaurant open.

“We can sustain that for a substantial period of time and still survive,” he said and then chuckled. “It’ll break my heart to see that money going away, but that’s business. All of our parents told us to save for a rainy day. This isn’t a rainy day, it’s a stormy day.”

In Daphne, Kravers was also still running. Manager Zach Smith said the restaurant is keeping as many workers as possible, but drive-up business doesn’t employ as many people as are needed for dining inside.

“You might need five, six, eight people in the kitchen, but 30 people serving out front, so it doesn’t work when you’re not dining in,” Smith said.

He said the restaurant is working on options to keep up business. The restaurant, which is known for seafood, is looking at other menu options, such as casseroles, that are suited to being reheated at home. With other people, such as musicians, also put out of work by orders to restrict the size of gatherings, Kravers is also looking at setting up virtual concerts on social media that patrons could support though online donations.

“The owner’s very dedicated to the community and employees,” he said. “We’re going to be hanging in there as long as we can.”

On Fish River, at Big Daddy’s, manager Angi Orlek, said the loss of dine in business forced them to let many employees go in the last week.

“Right now, it’s just me, the owner, Jason Newsom, and a cook,” she said Tuesday. “With no one coming in, we had to let all of our staff go.”

Big Daddy’s will be cutting back operating hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, she said, until the dining areas can reopen.

She said customers have continued to come in and pick up food, both by car and pulling up to the dock by boat.

“We’ve had a lot of support and that’s what’s helped us,” she said. “We’ll be here as long as we can keep our head above water.”