INDIANAPOLIS — Restaurants in Marion County had their fingers crossed expecting to be able to open their doors to customers this weekend, but Mayor Joe Hogsett says they will have to wait a bit longer.
Stage 2 of Mayor Hogsett’s plan to reopen the city during the pandemic doesn’t allow restaurants to open for in-house dining until at least June 1st. Restaurants will be able to seat customers for outside seating only starting May 22nd.
“My first reaction is I wanted pick up my computer, and throw it out the window,” exclaimed Brian Shapiro, owner of Shapiro’s Deli downtown, “It doesn’t make much sense that you have Indianapolis workers that can go up to Hamilton County and Johnson County and they can work, but we can’t work here.”
Shapiro understands that people have to be safe, but he calls it a balance of economics and safety. In fact, Shapiro’s own son came down with COVID-19 after taking a flight on an airplane. He is a developmental software engineer living in Austin, TX.
“If the Mayor is that worried that businesses aren’t going to behave and follow social distancing, and be safe, then he needs to get the Health Department, and consultants, and go into the businesses, and help them,” argues Shapiro.
Shapiro’s Deli downtown is one of the restaurants in the city without outdoor seating. He’s pleaded with the city to try and come up with alternate plans.
“I talked to the Board of Health about taking all the doors off, and letting in the open air, and that was a quick, “No!” says Shapiro.
He saw this coming in January and began stocking up on gloves and masks then. When he thought he would be opening this weekend, he sent his employees to get tested for the virus before coming back to work, but now they must remain on hold. Their restaurant is open for takeout, or over the counter grocery goods, but he is far from a full staff.
“To me, this is just a temporary economic taking, and I want to know who is going to pay for it?” questions Shapiro, “All of the utilities in the state are going to the review board to ask for a rate increase. Well isn’t that wonderful? It’s no different than me saying, “Okay all my customers, because our sales are off, we are going to go back and all the credit cards we had, we are going to charge you because we aren’t making our projections. Shame on them!”
City leaders are contemplating closing down certain streets to allow restaurants to put seating outside. Businesses owners along Massachusetts Avenue are hoping to hear their name called.
“If we are allowed to, we are probably going to, as long as we are maintaining the standards,“ says Thunderdome Restaurants Regional Manager Ricky Tindell talking about closing down Mass Ave, “There’s a lot of frustration attached, but this is something we are all going through.”
Thunderdome Restaurants owns and operates The Eagle, Bakersfield, and Krueger’s Tavern on Mass Ave. During the summer, the large patio space at The Eagle is one of the hottest spots in the city. The patio is full most weekends, and without it they have taken a financial hit. Now, the open patio space may also be their biggest advantage over other Marion County restaurants.
“These two tables behind me are the only two that aren’t technically six feet apart already,” motions Tindell to the patio behind him.
The Eagle in Nashville opens for in-house dining on Friday, while the company just got notification from city officials in Cincinnati that alleys and streets near their Ohio locations will be closing to expand outdoor seating potential.
“As we figure out our systems, we just share that with the other regions,” explains Tindell.