This past weekend changed everything for the hospitality industry.
By Sunday, March 15, several cities and states had mandated the closure of bars and nightclubs along with ending dine-in service for restaurants.
Curfews have been implemented in some areas. Takeout and delivery are still an option for some operations, but that may change with the stroke of a pen.
Some mayors and governors have stated that closures and operational restrictions are limited to the end of this month. However, there’s a strong possibility these mandates will be in place for more than just a week or two depending on what health experts around the globe determine is the best course of action for dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Keep up to date: Voluntary or Mandatory Closures: Here's What to Do
Three main schools of thought that have emerged over the past couple days: stay open until the federal, state or local government orders otherwise; close voluntarily; remain open to fill takeout and delivery orders if applicable and legal.
Each is understandable—this situation is fluid and nearly unprecedented. However, the reality is that many operators are being forced to close by government officials, and others believe the responsible thing to do is close for the health of the community and staff members.
Operators who have been ordered to close and have 24 or more hours to do so, and those who choose to close voluntarily, can act intelligently before ceasing operations.
Keep up to date: Running List of Every State That Has Shut Down Bars and Restaurants
2020 Nightclub & Bar Award winner Kevin Diedrich, who operates and tends bar at Pacific Cocktail Haven, took a solo shift last night. He announced via social media that he had already drastically cut hours and intended to operate the bar on his own to generate revenue for his team.
Later today, Diedrich announced that his shift was likely the final night of operation, saying, “Thank you and we’ll see you soon once it’s safe to reopen.” He also stated that the team would receive the tips he had made.
The Sand Dollar Lounge in Las Vegas chose to close for seven days, reopening if and when permitted to do so. Taking to Instagram, the bar announced a “draining of the bar” event. The announcement noted that all profits generated from draining the bar would go to the staff.
For operators who have time before a mandated closure, a “drain the bar, empty the kitchen” event may be something they want to consider. Operating lean is likely the best strategy, as is making it clear that all profits and/or tips will go to the team. Such an event can help use food items so they don’t spoil. This same idea can be implemented by operators closing voluntarily.
Those who have the financial capability can also offer staff an hourly rate to come in and do a deep clean of the bar, restaurant or nightclub before shutting down. This may also be best time for operators to tackle renovations if their financial position is strong enough.
Mandated closures can’t be sidestepped—the decision is out of operators’ hands. Running lean to offer takeout and delivery where permitted is one way to keep generating revenue. Those who are closing voluntarily may making the difficult but best choice to keep their communities safe and avoid potential legal and PR issues.