Restaurants Adapt During COVID-19

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by Terry Rogers

On March 16, Governor John Carney announced that bars and restaurants in Delaware must close their doors in order to combat the COVID-19 virus spread, allowing them to only provide take-out or delivery services. On March 18, the Governor relaxed liquor laws, allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout or drive-through orders. Although the ability to sell alcohol with carry-out orders may help restaurants during the closure, it is still anything but business as normal.

“We are keeping all our staff on board during this,” Marissa Cordell of EasySpeak said. “We are trying to find anything and everything for them to do to make sure they have a steady income for as long as we can. Cooking, cleaning, etc. We are offering our full menu as well as specials as carry out. Since the closure, business has decreased but we have seen a tremendous amount of support from our customers and our employees.” During the closure, Cordell said they are taking the opportunity to completely remodel the restaurant and are excited to let customers see what they are calling EasySpeak 2.0.

In addition to keeping their staff on board, the business has also used innovation to change their business model to meet a demand from the COVID-19 scare. To fight the spread of the virus, EasySpeak is making hand sanitizers for locals. As pharmacies started to run out, the businesses began making the products mainly for use in house for customers and staff and to give away to customers. As the issue progressed, the owners started receiving requests to produce larger quantities. They decided to ramp up production and this week EasySpeak  will produce over 300 gallons. The product will be available in 8oz spray bottles, 1 gallon jugs and also in custom bulk orders. The business is open 7 days a week for sanitizer sales, liquor bottle sales and take out food. They open at noon daily, close 6:30 week days and 8pm weekends. For more information, individuals and businesses can call 302-858-1875. 

Ramsey Schrader of Arena’s Restaurant and Deli has been very open about the hardships that this State of Emergency has had on the employees of his business, which stretched from northern to southern Delaware. 

“We employ between 150 to 190 people throughout the year. Of those, a large number have families that rely on Arena’s. Monday afternoon, just before 3 PM, we received word that we have five hours of service available for the foreseeable future. The horrible decision to close some locations and lay off 90 percent of our employees was thrust upon us at that moment,” said Schrader. “The thought that this may be it for good became a very real possibility. One that hasn’t gone away and won’t for a while. I’ll forever be changed as a direct result of this in more ways than one. Having something you have poured so much of yourself into, possibly disappearing in the blink of an eye is absolutely soul-rattling.”

Schrader went on to say that the hardest part of the closure, even with being able to offer carry-out or delivery, is how it impacts his employees and their families.

“At the end of the day, I can go find another job if this is how it shakes out so all we can do now is mitigate the damage and have a recovery plan,” Schrader said. “Not being able to directly help the people that have made Arena’s what it has become is gutting. Never, ever would I have thought to have to break up the band and we all go our separate ways through no fault of our own. To say this has been an emotional time would be a gross understatement. The sad part is that we aren’t alone in this. The right thing to do is rarely the easiest thing to do.”

As part of the state-mandated closure, Arena’s has closed the Newark and downtown Rehoboth deli location. Their Rehoboth Café is open from 11 to 7 for delivery as well as take-out and their Five Points location is open from 8 to 4 for to-go orders and 9 to 3 for delivery. The Georgetown Airport and Milford locations are open from 11-7 for both delivery and take-out while the Long Neck location is open from 11 to 5 for take-out only.

On Friday, March 20, owner of Westside Restaurant in Milford Madula Kalesis posted on Facebook that the business will be closing the doors until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“We appreciate every single one of you that came out and supported us this whole week,” Kalesis said. “Our staff appreciates you also. This was a big help to them as well. Hope everyone stays healthy and safe. We miss and love you all.”