'The bills never go away' - Taking a chance on opening the doors

Apr 24, 2020

Credit Alice's Champagne Palace

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy this week unveiled his plan to begin reopening some businesses closed due to the coronavirus emergency mandates. The plan includes restaurants, with guidelines on table distances and other factors designed to lower the chance of transmitting the Covid-19 disease.
    “You know, I think we're going to try and get open and abide by those new social distancing regulations in the restaurant with the tables 10 feet apart and, you know, operating at 25 percent capacity,” said Josh Tobin, manager at Alice’s Champagne Palace, a downtown Homer bar and grill. “I'm not sure that the demand is there, and I'm not sure that this is safe quite yet, you know, either for the customers or the staff. But we're in this awkward position where we need to get revenue flowing again. And I know a lot of my employees are itching to get back to work. So if they're going to make it legal, I think we're going to kind of test the waters.”
    As Tobin said, it’s awkward and risky, but he’s going to try and mitigate the risk as best he can.
    “You know we're going to try and operate with a skeleton crew, we're gonna, um, I'm probably going to be able to hire four people back. It's going to be an extremely limited menu. You know, last time when we, when we closed down, we lost nearly $5,000 in prepped food. And I, I just can't put Alice’s in that position again of losing that much money by closing down in a hurry,” he said. “And, and for the record, we didn't throw that food away. We distributed it to our employees.”
    Meanwhile, Homer’s representative in Juneau, Dist. P Sen. Gary Stevens agrees with the governor’s slow reopening for economic reasons.
    “You just know the difficulties that businesses are having, restaurants, particularly. And so to release folks a little bit from these restrictions probably makes sense, but be prepared to very quickly ratchet this down should there suddenly be a jump in cases,” Stevens said.
    Ultimately, he says socializing is a personal decision and citizens should do what’s best for themselves.
    “If you have a compromised medical condition, you should probably stay at home. You shouldn't follow these relaxed rulings and restrictions the governor has imposed,” Stevens said. “And not everyone has to run out all of a sudden and run to a restaurant. Those that are comfortable in doing it and healthy, have that ability, but others who are concerned, should they stay in their homes.”
    Tobin says that given the economic realities for both the restaurant and its employees, he feels obligated to give reopening a try.
    “The bills never go away. Like I still need to be able to pay the bills,” Tobin said. “And so I feel like I'm forced to take a risk that I probably wouldn't otherwise do if it weren't for generating revenue.”
    The governor’s plan includes openings of restaurants for limited dine-in services, retail stores for limited in-store shopping, barbershops, nail salons, and hairdressers, as well as other non-essential professional business services.