At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, several Tallahassee businesses shut down because of low demand, instruction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and employment health concerns. Businesses across the city have been reopening for service. However, the new COVID-19 variants are making local business owners anxious about losing their customers again.
Two local businesses, Blue Tavern and Horizons Bar and Grille, both experienced a halt in business after the outburst of the infectious coronavirus disease in early 2020.
Carrie Hamby is the owner and operator of Blue Tavern, a small eatery that serves coffee, beers, soups and more. Hamby says to keep their consumers safe at the start of the pandemic, the business could only operate at 25% capacity. However, Blue Tavern could not function at that volume.
“There’s no way we could be at 25% capacity or even 50% capacity and make overhead. This room pretty much has to be full for us to make overhead. That is the rent, inventory, the utilities and our staff,” said Hamby.
Blue Tavern closed their doors on March 15, 2020. Hamby bought Blue Tavern and reopened the community eatery earlier this summer.
On the opposite side of town is Horizons Bar and Grill, owned and operated by Kyle Flowers and Mike Smith. Flowers and Smith previously owned Spear It, an American Bar and Grille located near FSU’s campus. Spear It also shut down in March 2020 due to a large decline in sales.
“Our customer base was gone, who knew what was going to happen with FSU and the students going remote. It got to a point where it didn’t seem prudent to reopen Spear It,” said Flowers.
According to Flowers, their “bread and butter” came from the students. They opened Horizons Bar and Grille in Northeast Tallahassee for a more consistent customer base. Their new establishment is an upscale dining experience, meant to target the community that lives in Northeast Tallahassee.
While both businesses experienced a thriving reopening experience, both have seen a change in their consumers participation due to the outbreak of new COVID-19 variants.
Ben, an employee with Blue Tavern, has worked with the company since they first opened in 2016. He says they saw a good outcome when they reopened in June. However, with the new COVID-19 disruptions, customers are more cautious to come in.
“A lot of people were coming out initially. The past couple of weeks it’s been crazy out there, due to the Delta variant. People are just trying to stay safe,” he said.
According to Flowers, Horizons Bar and Grille sales are steady, but people are being cautious.
“What you’re seeing is not a slowdown. People are wearing their masks and would like to be socially distant. We aren’t really seeing a slowdown in business,” he said.
Both the Horizons and Blue Tavern owners have high hopes for the future of their restaurants, and aren’t looking to shut down any time soon.