Aiming at a moving target; Running a restaurant during a pandemic is more than challenging
Over the past year, being a bar or restaurant owner has been rough. The pandemic alone is enough to make any business owner apprehensive. But in places where people can spend more time, voices can get loud, and folks are less than six feet away it's even harder. Dan Austin, owner of Peel and Press in the Morgan Junction and The Flightpath Tavern in Boulevard Park has met them all, often through creativity, opportunity and with the help of good friends.
Austin said, "It's been super challenging to navigate ever changing rules and regulations. We never really know when something is going to happen. We've made investments like there was a thing for about a week where you could open if you had a big window and you can show the CO2 levels were at a certain point. So we went out and bought $300 C O2 monitors and then the next week, that wasn't a thing anymore. So like we burned money on that.
You know we spent $7000 building a patio in the front, then we got shut back down again. So we missed out on that. It's constant. We're trying to trying to hit a moving target. We understand keeping the public safe and we want to make sure we're part of the solution.
I really think that bars and restaurants can be a safe social outlet where people are monitoring the drinking levels, monitoring if masks are being worn and distancing is being followed versus like a house party where no one is cutting people off and masks are not confirmed and there's not sanitizer on every table, so you know, I think we can do it right here but it's just struggle to try to keep up with following whatever the changing guidelines are on a regular basis, we can't plan."
Austin explained further, "The silver lining of the last 13 months has been the support and collaboration I have enjoyed with my fellow owners and the community. The Bridge, The Westy, West 5, Phoenecia, Mission Cantina and Lady Jaye all jumped in on an idea to feed our neighbors in need. The first week of the program was the week of the shutdown. We just met up at the kitchen at Peel and Press brought everything that was going to go to waste because of closure. We were close to St. Patrick’s Day and a lot of us were stocked up on corn beef, so corned beef and cabbage it was. I funded the meals the first few weeks and then customers started to reach out to donate. We kept that going for months until the unemployment system caught up and people started getting their benefits.
We also had strong support from our customers for our holiday food drive. We were able to purchase over 4,000 lbs of turkey, chicken, hams and even Field Roast for the West Seattle Food Bank (WSFB). I helped distribute down there and it was both heartbreaking to see the need but also inspiring to see the amazing work the WSFB and its volunteers do in our community.
I also had the pleasure of a great customer, Brian Romas, reaching out for help with an idea. His family normally adopted a family for Christmas though their school but with the school closed he was looking for a place to be of service. After a quick chat we had a game plan. I was going to go talk with my restaurant friends who had to layoff staff or reduce their hours and find out who had kids and needed help for Christmas. Brian rallied a group of generous West Seattleites to help fulfill the kid’s wishlists. I believe we covered just over 60 children and made sure they had a joyful Christmas. Those lovely donors even brought a little something for the parents too.
When I am having a down day because of all the stress this pandemic has caused, I go back and read some of the letters sent by the parents of those kids and it both humbles me and lifts me up. Many of us owners wouldn’t make it through this with out the support of each other and our community."