Kari Walker said downtown Reedsburg is a lot quieter without the sound of cars constantly rushing by on Main Street and empty parking spots along the curb.
The owner of Touchdown Tavern said in a March 24 interview sales were down 36% for the month, mainly because of only being allowed to issue carry out orders which make up a small percentage of a restaurant sales. It’s the only way restaurants can continue to serve food with Gov. Tony Evers’ mandate to shut down all local restaurants to dine in service in an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
While sales are down for the restaurant, Walker said she’s grateful. With the 30-day Safer at Home order, scheduled to be in effect until April 24, she realizes it may encourage people to stay home more often. Companies have began laying off or furloughing employees, so she realizes eating a restaurant meal may be a luxury for some families.
“We are grateful for every order that we get because those orders are very precious,” she said.
Walker said the daytime business has slowed but the restaurant’s Friday Night Fish Fry has been strong, even running out of fish for the first time in its history the first weekend Evers issued the mandate to shut down dine in service March 17. Long time regular and new customers have phoned in orders for a take-out meal.
“We’re just going to keep our attitude good and know this too shall pass and eventually we are going to get back on our feet,” she said. “It might take a few months to recover but our underlying finances are solid and we’ll be okay.”
However, there’s been some tough decisions. Walker said the restaurant furloughed every single of its bartenders and servers with the state mandates to shut down dine in service, a tough decision Walker said wasn’t made lightly. Walker and her husband, Mike, are taking over all the operations from managing the business to the carry out orders and cooking until the mandates are lifted.
“Once the governor says restaurants can be open again then we’ll ramp back up,” she said.
One of those part-time employees, who also owns her own small business on Main Street not far from Touchdown Tavern, is Betti Jo Dorava. Dorava, who opened Lucy’s Main Street Mercantile last summer, offers items such as meats, cheese, bakery, hand-knitted and other specialty items made from 50 local vendors who pay rent or commission based off their space. Lucy’s Main Street Mercantile also closed when Evers issued his Safer at Home order to close all non-essential businesses.
While she said it will be difficult to pay bills with the building not open and one of her jobs lost, she feels her situation isn’t as rough compared to others. Dorova said she considers herself fortunate because she has her vendors who have become friends, her two adult sons who call her every day to check on her, her dog Lucy, food in her refrigerator and a home to live in.
“I have concern over things,” she said. “But I’m not a person that lives above my means.”
Financial relief has been announced by the Small Business Association, the state with federal disaster loans and even Reedsburg officials announcing $5,000 emergency loans for Reedsburg businesses who have under 25 employees. While Walker said Touchdown Tavern is fine financially and isn’t looking to seek assistance, Dorava said she’s applied for loans from the Small Business Association and is looking into other financial assistance to help recover lost funds.
Walker said the best way to support a small business during this time is to order online or a gift certificate for present cash flow. If cash is tight, she said another way to show support is share a local establishment’s social media updates and pages.
Dorova and Walker said they both aren’t afraid their businesses will shut down due to the financial effects of the pandemic and have full faith the Reedsburg community will do whatever it can to support small businesses in these difficult and uncertain times.
“I think once this gets past, we are going to thrive,” Dorava said. “Once it gets the OK to open everybody is going to feel so exciting to just be normal again.”
Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.