As much of the country begins reopening its economy, Alaska businesses weigh their options. Restaurants in particular face difficult challenges with either option. On the one hand, reopening means implementing stringent social distancing protocols, given the ongoing status of the pandemic. On the other, remaining closed wades into financially precarious territory.
Beginning April 27, Governor Dunleavy permitted restaurants to reopen. However, restrictions mandated by state order include minimizing the amount of customers. In addition to limiting service to 25 percent capacity, diners must also reserve their time slot. Walk in service is prohibited.
Local station KTVA 11 reported on some of the restaurants in the Anchorage area. They spoke with folks at Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant as it reopened for business. One customer expressed excitement at the prospect of eating out again. Gwennie’s patron Verla Clubb rushed at the opportunity. “When I heard it was reservations only, I immediately got on the phone and called,” she told KTVA 11.
To protect themselves and their customers, staff at Gwennie’s wipe down each menu before handing it to a new customer and they sanitize frequently touched surfaces every hour.
However, despite the option to reopen, some restaurants believe the better course involves waiting a little longer.
South Restaurant and Coffeehouse, Spenard Roadhouse, and Snow City Cafe are among those choosing to remain closed to dine-in service. When they reopen on May 4, they will offer only curbside pick up and delivery.
Likewise, Bear Tooth Theatrepub and Grill continues offering solely takeout. They addressed their decision in a Facebook post. “Ensuring the continued safety of our staff and customers is our biggest priority as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and we are continually assessing our plan for resuming regular operations,” it read.
The president and CEO of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, Sarah Oates, spoke with Anchorage Daily News about restaurant owners’ decisions. “The overwhelming feedback I’ve been getting is most businesses don’t want to open up right away,” she said.
Currently, Alaska’s coronavirus case count reaches over 350, but the state rests towards the bottom of the list for states with the most cases. However, most of those concentrate within the Anchorage area. Models predicted the peak in mid-April, but resurgence remains a potential threat.