‘We miss our regulars’ – Local restaurants share impact from COVID-19 changes

A William’s BBQ employee hands a to-go order to a customer Friday afternoon. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN COUNTY, Ala. – Restaurants around the county have had to noticeably adapt quickly to new restrictions and orders put in place by officials due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The statewide health order issued by Governor Kay Ivey March 19 has drastically affected the way restaurants conduct their business.

Per restaurants, the health order instated, “Any restaurant, bar, brewery or similar establishments shall not permit on-premise consumption of food or drink. Ivey continues to encourage patrons to visit their local eateries for take-out or delivery provided the social distancing protocols include maintaining a consistent 6-foot distance between persons are followed.”

Some local restaurants within the county were available for comment concerning the impact restaurants have had to adapt to due to the statewide health order.

William’s BBQ Manager Michael Dingler shared how the pandemic has affected both the restaurant’s customers and staff.

“Yeah, business is down. Sometimes it’s chaos, everybody’s lining up and having to wait a bit longer,” Dingler said. “We’ve had to lay off some people, but not a lot, but we’re still running well over 60% staff.”

Despite the obvious impact on the restaurant itself, Dingler is glad that they’ve still been able to help some of those in the community struggling as well.

“We’re happy to serve our community in any way we can,” Dingler said. “We’ve done a lot of business with Topre (they’re purchasing food); we’ve fed some nursing homes. We’re getting ready to feed 150 nursing home staff out in Trussville, there’s a local church here in town going to pay for it.”

Fairview’s The Hutch and Brindley Mountain BBQ talked about their current circumstances as well. Waitress Brandi Handley and Cook Cindy Gregory have been managing and running The Hitch since personnel changes due to the pandemic.

“Business has been very, very slow. Almost ‘ready to shut down’ slow,” Gregory said. “We barely made even, and that’s bad. Up until yesterday, we saw an increase in sales.”

She solemnly added, “We miss our regulars. We grew attached to them, seeing them every day.”

“We’re down to two (both Gregory and Handley). I lost two dishwashers and both my waitresses so now (Gregory) cooks and I conduct the curbside service,” Handley said. “We do dishes and all of the prep from the time we open to when we close.”

Brindley Mountain BBQ Co-Owner Anthony Garlowich shared the impact the virus has on them.

“Of course, there’s been a notable decrease in business overall. Our dining room facility seats around 60 and we almost always had guests in the dining room in the past,” Garlowich said. “So, cutting back to drive-thru only has cut down on guests for sure. We are currently working with about half our normal staff and we have cut back our hours of operation by about three hours a day.”

Just like seemingly every other industry across the country, the local restaurant business is facing real challenges due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The dining room of The Hutch located out in Fairview as seen noticeably empty Friday afternoon. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

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