As a member of the Carmel City Council and a restaurant owner, Adam Aasen knows the challenges all restaurants have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered restaurants March 16 to halt dine-in service to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they are allowed to reopen in most of the state May 11 at 50 percent capacity. Many restaurants will reopen May 11, but many are planning to wait a bit longer, with some not reopening at all.
Aasen is co-owner of Donatello’s Italian Restaurant, which is planning to reopen May 11.
“We are eager to get back, but we want to do it smartly,” said Aasen, whose restaurant will have dinner hours for now. “Reopening our economy is not like flipping on a light switch.It’s got to be done slowly and it’s got to be done strategically.”
Aasen said Donatello’s will not only follow the governor’s reopening guidelines but will go beyond to keep employees and customers safe.
“We’ll be reducing our capacity even beyond 50 percent,” he said. “Tables will be spread out at least six feet, probably more. Silverware that is usually out on the table won’t be brought out until you are seated. There will be hand sanitizer when you come in and on the table.”
State guidelines discourage gatherings in common areas, such as waiting for a table, so Aasen is recommending reservations. Donatello’s private room, used for private parties, will be used for extra dining space to spread guests out even farther.
For those still uncomfortable with the thought of dining in a restaurant, Donatello’s will still offer carryout.
Aasen said he believes restaurants will have a tough time for the next several months.
“We have to rebuild consumer confidence so people feel safe going out again,” Aasen said. “Then we may see people with less money. Some people are making just as much money as they were, so they are unaffected. But many Americans have lost one-sixth of their income. Even if they own a business, many businesses have seen decreased revenue during this time. If people have less money that means they aren’t able to go out to eat as much. On top of that, we are seeing prices going up with the supply chain being disrupted. Certain meat prices went really high with processing plants closing. There were shortages there making prices go up. That either means higher prices when you order at a restaurant or restaurants make less money because they now they are paying more for ingredients.”
Aasen said the next six months to a year will be crucial for the long-term success of many local and national restaurants.
Some already realized it will be too hard to be profitable in this environment.
Stacked Pickle owner Gary Brackett, a former Indianapolis Colts linebacker, announced May 6 all 10 Stacked Pickle sports bar restaurants, including in Carmel, have closed permanently because of the financial fallout from the pandemic.
Brackett did not respond to a request for comment.
Other restaurants plan to reopen their dining rooms, but not right away. Rob Hoersdig, director of operations for the Carmel’s Matt the Miller’s Tavern and six Ohio restaurants, said the company is targeting an early June reopening for the Carmel restaurant for limited dining and carryout services.
“We are not going to reopen any of our stores until we feel fully comfortable meeting and exceeding all the requirements we have for safety,” Hoersdig said. “It’s a heck of lot more challenging than I think some folks give it credit for, so we’re hungry to get back in there again. But with the limitations on seating and limitations on revenue in general, I don’t see any reason to sprint toward partial sales. We are going to do it methodically and safely. We’ll keep fingers crossed there are no setbacks.”
Hoersdig said the Carmel restaurant did carryout for the first week after dining rooms were closed.
“Those revenue numbers spoke pretty loudly, so we decided to learn more about how this process was going to go and focus on when we have the opportunity to have folks in the buildings,” Hoersdig said.
Kevin Paul, owner of Danny Boy Beer Works and Brockway Pub in Carmel, said his restaurants will reopen May 11. There is outdoor seating at both restaurants.
“There is no bar service, and hopefully we can get back to normal fairly soon,” Paul said.
Both his Carmel restaurants have been doing takeout with food and packaged beer and wine service.
Paul described the takeout sales as miserable, but he said some of the regular customers at both places have been buying.
“It’s been worth it for that reason, and I wanted to make sure I could keep my managers employed,” he said.
Brockway is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Danny Boy is open for dinner every day but lunch Thursdays through Sundays.
Danny Boy has room for 100 people at 50 percent seating inside.
“We have a huge patio, so that is 60 or 70 folks even if we spread out,” Paul said. “Brockway has room for 30 or 40 people outside.”
Owner Anthony Lazzara said Anthony’s Chophouse will open May 14 with updated menus.
“The reason we are waiting is to not only retrain staff and teach the new menus, but also to see how the beginning of the week goes and public reaction,” Lazzara said.
The Carmel restaurant was doing takeout during the pandemic, but halted the service May 4.
Several Carmel restaurants announced their plans to open May 11 on social media, including Fork + Ale House, Woody’s Library Restaurant, divvy and SoHo Cafe and Gallery.
Muldoon’s announced it plans to delay its opening to May 18.
“While we really miss all of you, we need to make sure we are navigating the inside dining re-opening in the safest and most effective way possible,” it announced on social media. “We would like to take the extra time and see how this next week goes before we dive in. We hope you all understand. The safety of our staff and our customers are more important to us than the sales.”
Citing minimizing risks for staff and customers, Dooley O’Toole’s has decided not to reopen yet but will continue curbside carryout.
Rosie’s Place announced it would not open its three restaurants yet, but would continue curbside service.
OPEN FOR DINE-IN SERVICE MAY 11
- Donatello’s Italian Restaurant
- Danny Boy Beer Works
- Brockway Pub
- Fork + Ale House
- Woody’s Library Restaurant
- SoHo Café and Gallery
- Bar Louie
- Agave Bar and Grill
- Books & Brews Carmel
- Papa Fattoush
- Wolfie’s Grill
OPEN FOR DINE-IN MAY 14
- Anthony’s Chophouse
- Stacked Pickle
OPENING DATE UNDECIDED
- Matt the Miller’s
- Rosie’s Place (curbside pickup available)
- Dooley O’Toole’s (curbside pickup available)