(Staff Writer Charlene Sharpe contributed to this article.)
SALISBURY – Several restaurants in Salisbury and Berlin continue to operate this week with perseverance and a little ingenuity.
On Monday, Governor Larry Hogan ordered the closure of all Maryland bars, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the most part, however, many local restaurants will continue to operate by offering carryout, drive-thru and delivery services, which are still permitted under the governor’s order.
At the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Bill Chambers said the organization is gathering a list of restaurants offering carryout and delivery. In a Business Roundtable event this week, he told community leaders local businesses were already feeling the economic hardship of closing dine-in services.
“The local impact is already being felt with our restaurant and hospitality partners,” he said. “The greatest fear immediately is layoffs and furloughs.”
Manager Chris Burrows of The Greene Turtle Salisbury said several employees are currently out of work.
“It’s definitely hurting us a lot,” he said. “We have 45 workers that are making no money.”
Burrows said The Greene Turtle Salisbury remains open for carryout and delivery. He noted, however, that he was frustrated by the situation.
“There could have been a lot more done to prepare us for this, and there are questions we still don’t have the answers to …,” he said. “We elected people into office that are still getting paid when we aren’t. They failed us.”
Market Street Inn and MoJo’s owner Rob Mulford, who attended this week’s Business Roundtable, told leaders Market Street Inn had received one online order as of early Tuesday afternoon. He added it was critical to use perishable foods already in their inventory.
“Restaurants and businesses, most of us operate on paper-thin margins day to day …,” he said. “In payroll costs, I’ll be in the hole $75,000 in seven days. It’s pretty critical.”
Despite the many unknowns, Mulford said he was taking it day by day.
“Today, tomorrow and the next day it’s probably not really thinking about ordering online …,” he said. “It’s thinking about how I’m going to take care of my family first, how I’m going to get supplies, what is my plan … We’re crushed right now.”
Andrew Hanna, who owns and operates Kellyn’s Kafe in Salisbury, said he remains optimistic despite the closure of dine-in services. He noted that to-go orders for breakfast, lunch, and the cafe’s homemade doughnuts make up a vast majority of his business.
“Today I did pretty well,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I didn’t feel too much of the effects. I think that will continue as long as [Hogan] doesn’t close nonessential businesses.”
Hanna said full-time staff continue to work in the cafe and added that he will try to maintain normal business hours.
“We’ll continue to be here,” he said. “But when I have to shut down I will.”
Hanna also recognized community members who continue to patronize local businesses.
“We are appreciative of everyone that has come out to support small businesses,” he said.
In Berlin, most restaurants are offering carryout and have even added downtown delivery service since the dine-in restrictions were announced. There have been some closures, however.
DiFebo’s Restaurant will be closed as long as the government restrictions are in place. Fins Ale House and Raw Bar has closed permanently, according to Wells.
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, said that though the Fins restaurant’s connections initially planned for a temporary closure, they thought it was too difficult to keep the operation in limbo for what might be eight weeks.
Nevertheless, Wells remains positive. Referencing the Berlin Restaurant Week promotion held each winter, she said she was promoting the current situation as carryout week.
“People are going to get tired of being in the house and cooking,” she said.
Wells said she’d encouraged businesses that were offering carryout to develop a family size meal option so people could pick it up quickly on the go. She’s also pushing the sale of gift cards, which could be used in the future.
“So far it’s going well,” she said. “They’re definitely receiving some phone calls.”
While she acknowledged that the town’s restaurants would still take a financial hit with the closure, she remains optimistic.
“Think positive,” she said. “We’re going to get through this.”
Wells is already planning an “Over the Rainbow” town-wide party — in homage to The Wizard of Oz — for a time when COVID-19 is no longer a concern.
“I always try to give people something to look forward to,” she said.