DRAFFENVILLE — Like much of what has already been done in 2020 in relation to the coronavirus, small businesses are trying to navigate yet another round of imposed requirements from state officials.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear outlined several new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus that has painted all but eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties red to denote 25 or more average daily cases per 100,000 population. Among the restrictions was to ban restaurants and bars from inside dining or drinking and to instead promote carryout or delivery along with socially distanced outdoor seating.
Restaurants went through a similar dine-in shutdown during the spring and summer months, when coronavirus cases began to develop in Kentucky. Now, some businesses have indicated they plan to disregard the governor’s order, which went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.
Thursday, Popi’s restaurant in Draffenville posted on its Facebook page that it would remain open. The post stated staff “are taking extra precautionary measures for sanitization as well as requiring everyone to wear face masks.” A comment added that the owners made the decision “out of respect for our 50 (plus) employees and for our community … shutting down (again) during the holidays especially is not the right thing to do.”
The post received more than 460 likes and more than 200 comments with the majority supporting the owners’ decision.
Marshall County Commissioner Justin Lamb responded Thursday with a statement also supporting restaurant owners. He said he knew several people in the restaurant industry and who operate small businesses concerned with Beshear’s latest mandate and the impact of another closure.
“I think any time you’re sitting down and making a widespread mandate like this, you need to have several folks at the table and get the ones who will be affected the most at the table,” Lamb said. “Personally, I don’t think that has been done.”
Denise Morabito, owner of Mama D’s in Calvert City, decided to close her dining room and revert back to takeout service through Dec. 13, which is when the restriction is scheduled to be lifted.
“This is a very small restaurant. I only have 15-16 people working here,” Morabito said, adding that she would be letting three of her workers go because she didn’t have enough positions to keep them.
She said the new restrictions seem to be targeting businesses like hers, despite her efforts to follow COVID-19 guidelines such as social distancing, sanitizing and wearing masks.
“What is (the governor) trying to do, kill the small businesses? You ask us to wear the mask, everybody’s wearing the masks. It’s all sanitized,” Morabito said. “People are coming into the restaurant with masks. We stand there and ask, ‘Do you have a mask?’ They go to the car and get it or I have extras.”
A person contacted early Friday afternoon at Hutchen’s BBQ in Benton said they were not sure what they would do and declined to comment further. Meanwhile, Chris Fristoe with Fristoe’s Food Mart and Restaurant in Graves County announced on social media his restaurant and store would remain open. A photo of a sign was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page saying, “Employees need a job a have bills to pay as well. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming everyone needs money. … I will take the backlash and jail time if they want to go that route.”
Morabito asked about consequences for defying Beshear’s order. Marshall County Board of Health and county officials have scheduled a 10 a.m. Zoom video conference today to discuss the governor’s executive order and any potential penalties.
Lamb said he doesn’t think anyone outside of a businesses’ owner should mandate if it closes or not.
“That’s up to them. If they do choose to remain open and be in full operation, I will support them 100%. I think it should come from the business owner and not government,” he said. “The ones making decisions, they’re going to have a paycheck the next three weeks and into next month, however long this shutdown is going to last.
“Some of these in the restaurant industry, they’re not going to have that luxury and they’re going to have a hard time providing for their families, especially with the holidays coming up,” Lamb added. “I think folks need to put that into perspective.”