ASHEVILLE – Diners and drinkers will need to take extra steps to prepare before heading to town.
Normal operations at local bars and restaurants may be disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased regulations and the winter season.
Closure during the peak holiday season is not typical for food and beverage businesses and is another example of the pandemic’s toll.
“The week between Christmas and New Years has historically been a very busy and lucrative time for restaurants in the Asheville area,” said Jane Anderson, executive director of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. “The fact that some of them had to close is a big blow to their results. They depend on that income to get it through January and February.”
Positive COVID tests, negative result
The omicron variant of the virus continues to increase during the holiday season, leading to temporary shutdowns in the New Year. Some companies have announced closures and stricter health and safety guidelines after discovering employees have been exposed or tested positive for the virus.
Little Jumbo, a neighborhood bar at 241 Broadway Street, closed on Christmas Eve and is not expected to open until January 3 or later. The bar closed after employees tested positive for COVID-19 and came into contact with other employees.
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“We wanted to be as careful as possible when it comes to protecting our guests and staff,” said Chall Gray, co-owner. “We have a small squad, so unfortunately we really didn’t have a lot of choice because we don’t have a lot of people to start. “
Some employees are waiting for the results of their tests, which will determine when the business reopens, he said.
“I stopped trying to predict the future two years ago because it just never worked for me,” Gray said.
Little Jumbo was closed for 387 days after the initial pandemic shutdown in March 2020, he said. The bar opened in April 2021, and this is the first time it has been forced to close due to the virus since then.
The latest shutdown has another big impact on the company’s revenue. Additionally, Little Jumbo canceled their New Years party and refunded ticket holders.
“It’s definitely a big hit on the income, that’s for sure. I don’t see any way to get it back. Business interruption insurance hasn’t really done much for anyone at any time, and I doubt it does now. It’s just a loss, ”Gray said. “I look forward to the day, which I hope won’t be in more than a few years, that all of this will be a thing of the past.”
Stricter COVID Protocols
Holeman and Finch, a restaurant that opened earlier this month on the South Slope, has been closed for more than a week, due to the pandemic. The restaurant has closed and is expected to resume operations on Jan.4, according to the restaurant’s website.
Once reopened, the restaurant will follow suit with other restaurants and bars in Asheville and require customers to present proof of vaccination to enter. And temperature controls will be required for all guests.
Little Jumbo introduced a proof of vaccination rule in August.
“We were among the first. Asheville Brewing, they were one of the main pioneers there, and The Crucible, ”Gray said. “I’ve heard that more and more places are starting to require it now, just in the last few days.”
There were negative comments from guests, while others expressed that the vaccination check was the reason they decided to visit, he said.
“From the calls we get at AIR, I think there are people looking for these restaurants,” Anderson said. “On the other hand, I know there are people who don’t like going to restaurants like this. It’s kind of a mixed bag.
On December 27, Bottle Riot updated their guidelines to include the vaccination requirement.
Additionally, according to North Carolina law, guests will need to register as “members” of Bottle Riot to be admitted, as the bar now sells spirits and is considered a “private bar.” Previously, membership was not required since the bar only served wine and beer. The law has established bars that serve spirits but do not have restaurant kitchens serving food, co-owner Lauri Nichols said.
“Our priority continues to be the health and happiness of our staff, all our guests and our communities, and we believe that further proof of COVID-19 vaccination to become a member of Bottle Riot is a small but crucial step. to take to do so. “Nichols said.
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Many bars operate under the categorization of private bars, Gray said, including Little Jumbo. Guests should be prepared to register at the gate if they are visiting for the first time.
“It’s easy and windy. Anyone 21 and over just needs to show valid ID, along with proof of vaccine, ”Nichols said. “It can be a vaccine card or a clear photo of the card on your phone and a one-time $ 1 membership fee.”
After the holiday rush, some establishments close for days or weeks to give their employees time to rest and take care of internal tasks. Winter holidays are normal and a practice that dates back to before the pandemic, Anderson said.
“Because January and February are traditionally the slowest months of the year for our restaurants, it is not uncommon for many of them to take winter vacations … so they can do a bit. repair and restoration in their restaurants, ”she said.
Customers are recommended to visit the company’s website, social media pages or call before scheduling a visit to confirm that it is open and to know the updated hours, which may be reduced due lack of staff. Also check out its COVID-19 guidelines, which may have changed with the recent virus spike.
“My best suggestion for people looking to dine out, especially this week, is (to) make sure the restaurant you’re going to is open – so check their website and / or call them,” Anderson said. “The best thing is to be nice and wear a fucking mask.”
Tiana Kennell is the food reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter / Instagram @PrincessOfPage.