Restaurant owner: Stage 5 doesn’t change much

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Although Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced the state will enter Stage 5 of its Back on Track reopening plan on Sept. 26, marking end to capacity limits in shops, restaurants and other businesses, one Zionsville pub owner said the move does little to help local businesses.

“It doesn’t really change anything,” said Scott Barnes, owner of The Friendly Tavern. “You still have to keep your 6 feet of separation between your tables, so honestly, it doesn’t really change anything at all, at least for our situation.”

Barnes, a restaurant owner for more than 46 years, said because of restrictions on bar areas, where patrons must be seated and spaced at least 6 feet apart, he can’t bar seating, and he said the pub won’t be able to add additional dining tables indoors because of social distancing restrictions.

Barnes said the pub’s carryout business has helped the business during the long stretch of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Friendly Tavern, which does not have outdoor dining, closed for two weeks in April before resuming carryout orders. He said the success of carryout and the gradual return of in-person diners has allowed the pub to sustain business.

“Just being in the business, it’s hard enough with everything you have to deal with,” Barnes said. “I was hoping it wasn’t going to last this long, that it wouldn’t go all winter, but it looks like it is going to. You feel like you might have control over your business, but right now it doesn’t feel like it. Right now, it feels like you’re kind of just existing. It’s hard to plan too much or do too much. You just don’t know.”

Zionsville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allyson Gutwein said the winter months will be difficult for local businesses and restaurants because of the pandemic.

“We are looking at this time of year whenever it is beautiful outside, let’s get people out and dining because I know there are quite a few people who enjoy outdoor dining and prefer outdoor dining,” Gutwein said. “As things get a little cooler, we are looking at kind of a tricky winter season. In combination with COVID, we also have flu season.”

Gutwein said restaurants that have capitalized on outdoor dining would likely see less patrons willing to dine outdoors as the weather cools. During that period, she said it is vital to support local businesses.

“I think the biggest thing is that we have to get out and support these local businesses,” Gutwein said. “There are going to be closures all over the state that are going to be exceptionally frightening, and if we don’t want our town to represent and reflect those numbers, it is on us as people who live here and love the restaurants and retailers that represent our town to get out and support them.”

To help local businesses during the winter months, the ZCC will promote Small Business Saturday and other initiatives during the fourth quarter of the year and the first quarter of next year. The chamber also plans to launch shopzionsvillechamber.com, created by Perfit, a Zionsville startup, where customers can search for a variety of products. The website will display a list of Zionsville stores that carry the products with an option to reserve a time to visit the store if needed, Gutwein said.


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