COVID-19 has been here for almost a full year and has impacted sectors of each city differently. Here in Tallahassee the restaurant scene has suffered a few losses, and owners have had to adapt to new COVID policies.
According to the National Restaurant Association, as of Dec. 7, at least 110,000 restaurants have already permanently shut down since the onset of the pandemic. Locally, at least 30 restaurants have closed.
“Overall in 2020 Tallahassee kept a 90 percent retention rate which is higher than the national average but, these statistics are not broken down by industry,” said Sue Dick, president and CEO of theGreater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. “Being closed for a duration of time, then limited to 25 percent seating was a hardship.”
The chamber has maintained a steady involvement in the community since the start of COVID. This includes educating and informing almost 1,200 members with information from healthcare providers and governmental entities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The chamber acted as a conduit and a source of real time information. Dick said that many restaurants and bars were just not able to survive.
Some Tallahassee restaurants that have been around for a least a decade were lost to COVID. The college population make up a majority of manyrestaurants’ clientele. When FAMU and FSU shifted to remote learning last March, many students went home and that took a toll on local restaurants.
“We spent all of our money renovating a restaurant right before the entire city shut down,” said local restaurant owner Adam Wells. “We had been open for about 13 years prior.”
Wells is one half of the business and his partner is his brother. Before COVID the two were in business together owning two local restaurants: Wells Brothers Bar and Grill, which they have closed, and Midtown Caboose.
Wells said that they have combined the former Wells Brother Bar and Grill’s menu so that regulars to the former establishment can have their favorites at the Midtown Caboose. They still own the property but operate as landlords for the new restaurant, the Gilliam Sisters Soul Food restaurant.
Each business and restaurant has faced a different challenges a result of COVID. The city has imposed guidelines for curbside pickup and many had issues applying and receiving aid.
Dick at the chamber said they are working with members should financial hardship occur. They are also helping business and restaurant owners apply for the Paycheck Protection Program and Personal Protective Equipment.