WARSAW – Restauranteurs and customers alike in Warsaw expressed some support for the temporary state-wide closing of bars and eateries Monday in the growing effort to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
Word spread quickly Monday morning, March 16, at several Warsaw eateries after Gov. Holcomb issued new directives to close bars, nightclubs and eat-in restaurants.
The newest restrictions came on the same day the federal government urged people to avoid crowds of 10 or more and Indiana announced its first death from the virus.
The restrictions do allow for carryout at bars and drive-thru service and takeout at restaurants.
In doing so, Indiana joined all surrounding states in deciding to close restaurants and bars for the near future.
Some business owners expressed concern for their workers while some diners brushed aside the inconvenience of not being able to turn to a sit-down restaurant for a meal.
For customers at The Downtown on Monday, it was the last chance to enjoy a sit-down meal in a restaurant before the businesses began closing early in the afternoon.
Tom Clemens, who co-owns and operates The Downtown with Kristi Boren, said they began making contingency plans as soon as they learned of the governor’s mandate.
“It’s shocking. It’s scary. I worry about my employees and I worry about the welfare of humanity, frankly,” Clemens said amid a crowd of customers shortly after noon Monday.
The restaurant will offer carryout meals from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
But Boren questioned how long that will last if the distributors they depend on are shut down.
“Just every day, you wake up and there’s something new happening. If our food distributors get shut down, we won’t have a supply of food coming to us,” Boren said
Clemens said they are “committed” to retaining staff, but is also accepting of a new, short-term reality.
In a matter of days, the spread of the virus and mounting concerns have led to massive cancelations of schools and athletics – and now – a big portion of the service sector.
“I can’t think of anyone not affected by this,” Clemens said.
He said he supports the move by the governor and that this is no time for partisan politics.
Nearby, Kent, an employee with Zimmer Biomet, who declined to give his last name, sat at a table with a friend for lunch at the Downtown, realizing it might be his last chance to do so for a while.
He said he’s more worried about the impact on restaurants than his own inconvenience.
“My biggest question is what the government is going to do for rents” that will still have to be paid by restaurant and tavern employees.
“The government has to do something, I guess,” he said.
Kent said he thinks the move by the governor was necessary.
“To contain the spread, I think it’s probably better for the public in the long term,” he said.
Other lunch-time customers elsewhere seemed to take the mandate in stride.
Jake Eherenman, Warsaw, and Jimmy Jones, Silver Lake, were eating lunch at the Detroit Street Penguin Point in Warsaw. They’re working to remodel a home and said they often go to fast-food locations for their lunch break.
“It’s gonna take more time out of the workday if we have to go home,” Eherenman said. “I mean, I guess you could pack your lunch, but we don’t have any running water where we’re working, so…”
When asked if they’re concerned about COVID-19, Eherenman said “Not yet.”
“I’m not,” Jones replied, “I didn’t go out and buy 50 cases of toilet paper.”
“I’m more worried about my bank account than I am about what’s going to happen with anything else,” said Eherenman, who has rental properties.
“You live by what you make,” said Jones
Some restaurant managers in Warsaw were still waiting for directions from corporate offices early Monday afternoon.
As of 12:30 p.m. Monday, March 16, Stacey Hartpence, general manager of Hacienda in Warsaw, was waiting on an e-mail from the establishment’s corporate offices regarding the next steps.
“We’re just waiting on those directives,” said Hartpence.
Hacienda will still offer carry-out services through its website, which allows customers to order food and pay online. From there, customers can pick up their meals at the store.
“We have a specific shelf where those orders are put,” said Hartpence. “So people don’t even have to be concerned with in-person contact.”
Greg Velazquez, Maria’s Family Restaurant manager in Warsaw, said the establishment will continue to operate with delivery and carry-out.
A spokesperson for American Table said they plan to provide carryout from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
A bartender at Time Out Inn in Warsaw said they anticipate a pickup in carry out business, but said some selections of beers have become harder to keep in stock.