Restaurants reel from restrictions
Governor Charlie Baker introduced a series of life-changing restrictions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus on Sunday, March 15. Principal among them was limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery only, effective on Tuesday, March 17. In Wareham, restaurant owners and employees have been struggling to adapt to the restrictions.
“It’s scary...it’s very scary, because restaurants go day to day,” said Mary Labonte, owner of Mumma Mary’s on Main Street.
Labonte said that the news of the restrictions came on short notice, making it difficult to adapt. She said that her part-time employees will be laid off temporarily, but that she will do whatever she can to help them through tough times.
Labonte’s husband Brett works as a bartender at Vel’s Restaurant, but the bar at Vel’s will be shut down on Tuesday, and the restaurant will only serve takeout. Its hours will be limited to 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Monday afternoon, March 16, the bar was crowded with guests, but Brett said that his whole family could be out of work if the restaurant restrictions stay in place long term.
Robin Callahan works as a waitress at Vel’s, and will be laid off starting on Tuesday. She said that restaurant workers were given no guidance from the state on how to go forward without being able to make money.
Andy Tsang, manager of Gourmet Garden in Wareham Crossing, also expressed concerns about how long the restrictions could last. He said that if the restaurant closed down for a month, it could cost the business up to $17,000 just to continue paying rent and utilities.
Tsang said that the business is normally split equally between takeout and dine-in orders, and that the new restrictions will force him to cut down on workers’ hours in the kitchen.
Mikki Vasquez of El Mariachi said that news of the restrictions came “out of nowhere.”
She said that the restaurant was busy on Sunday, but started to die down after the Governor’s announcement. By 12:15 p.m. on Monday, the tables were completely empty.
To adapt, she said that the restaurant will be “rotating schedules” of its employees to keep a limited number of workers on hand to manage takeout and deliveries. She said that servers, who normally depend on tips, will have their wages stepped up to that of a host or hostess while the restrictions are in place.
Chairs and tables will be put away at the Riverside Cafe, as the business moves to takeout only.
“It was probably about 10% of our business, now it’s going to be 100%,” Julie Phillips said of takeout orders at the cafe.
Business at Riverside had already taken a hit on Monday. The often packed cafe had just two guests, twenty minutes before closing time.
Thomas Strom, of Kool Kone, said that takeout orders make up the majority of his restaurant's business during the winter, so he will likely be able to fare better than those that depend on dine-in options.
He said he will start offering deliveries on Tuesday, but that the availability of deliveries would depend on how busy things get at the restaurant.
In keeping with the concept of “social distancing,” Jim Kalkanis, the General manager of Minerva’s Pizzeria has urged customers to order and pay online. He also said that customers should feel free to ask drivers to leave their food on the doorstep, rather than hand it to them directly.
Customers can order online at minervapizzeria.com/index.php, by clicking on the red tab at the top of the page that says “Order Online.”
Kalkanis said that he is closely working with the town’s Board of Health on how to go forward during the coronavirus pandemic, and that the restaurant’s precautionary measures are part of the ongoing effort to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“If we do our part, it’s beneficial for everybody,” Kalkanis said.
According to the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, Cup 2 Cafe, Ella’s Wood Burning Oven Restaurant, and Longhorn Steakhouse are open for takeout as of Tuesday, March 17. Marc Anthony’s La Pizzeria, and Lindsey’s Family Restaurant are open for both takeout and delivery.