New limitations could hurt small restaurants in Shelby Co. upon reopening

Updated: Apr. 28, 2020 at 10:42 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As the road to reopening become clearer in Shelby County, restaurants could be just weeks away from returning to dining room services. But the new restrictions that have come with it could only deepen their economic pain.

Take out is still the order of the day at Shelby County restaurants since the coronavirus temporarily ended dining in.

“It was initially a bit of an adjustment because we’ve never done so much business as take out," said Central Barbecue Manager Anthony Coffee.

“None of us set up our business to be take out models so it has been hard," said Kelly English, owner of Iris and Second Line.

The bottom line -- take out and delivery was just a way for restaurants to keep some staff and make some money but restaurant owners tell WMC Action News 5 in many cases it’s a break-even or no profit at all.

We talked with the owners of Babalu in Overton Square who did not want to speak on camera. They said they own 10 restaurants and have lost $2 million so far. They do have take out and are using the time to renovate the restaurant.

When the restaurants are given the go-ahead to reopen in Shelby County they will only be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

“I’ll tell you that 50% of a restaurant capacity is nothing when it comes to how a restaurant operates financially," said English.

Coffee says dining in is a lot easier than take out and more economical for the restaurant.

“There’s a lot less materials, the order time goes down from having to pack and include everything takes a significant amount of time," he said.

English says he doesn’t want to reopen too soon even though he says he is very aware much of his staff is not working despite take out orders.

“The last thing we could do is bring them back and have to close again," said English.

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