County restaurants coping with state restrictions in wake of COVID-19
San Juan County restaurant owners are scrambling to make ends meet after their services to customers were severely limited by an order designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Local restaurants and bars have been heavily impacted by the order from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert that requires them to close dine-in services and only offer take out or curbside service.
The temporary mandate was put into effect on March 18 and will be reviewed after a two-week period.
Of the 12 area restaurant owners/managers who spoke with the San Juan Record, eight are operating under the governor’s mandate but report significant loss of revenue. Most said they have also had to cut employee hours or lay employees off altogether.
In Monticello, both Sampas Janhom at Ja-Roem Thai Sushi and Maryann Leiataua at PJ’s Restaurant said business is down about 50 percent since they’ve been forced to close dine-in operations. Leiataua said she’s had to cut employee hours.
Crystal Breedlove, owner of the Granary Bar and Grill, said she’s experienced a deep cut in business also and was forced to lay off 13 of her 17 employees. In addition, the bar has been completely shut down.
The two pizza restaurants in Monticello, Wagon Wheel Pizza and Thatzza Pizza seem to have been the least impacted due to the fact that they already garnered a good amount of takeout business prior to the governor’s order.
In Blanding, only Sharon Guymon, owner of the Homestead Steakhouse, was available for comment. She reports a 60 to 70 percent drop in business and is operating with around three-fourths of her staff.
Of the restaurants that remain open, the ones located in south county appear to have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 and the subsequent order from Gov. Herbert.
Steve Simpson, owner of the Twin Rocks Café estimates that his revenue will drop 90 percent in the coming weeks if the current trend remains unchanged. “For all intents and purposes, we may as well be shut down,” he said.
And in Monument Valley, longtime Goulding’s general manager Ronnie Biard runs not only a restaurant, but also a resort, RV park, campground, tours, a grocery store, and a convenience store.
Biard says as far as the restaurant is concerned, business is down about 80 percent, and if it continues to decline, he’ll be forced to shut down. He explained that his workforce is down to about 50 percent and “layoffs are the hardest part of what we’re going through right now.”
Sadly, in the wake of the governor’s order, at least four area restaurants – the Line Camp Steakhouse in Monticello, Cottonwood Steakhouse in Bluff, Swingin’ Steaks in Mexican Hat, and the Stateline Bar and Grill just across the Utah/Colorado line – have closed completely.
Line Camp co-owner Bobby Jane Gregory said the state regulation was “just not conducive to turning a profit.” She reports that her entire staff has been laid off but that ownership is hoping to reopen the restaurant as soon as they are allowed and get everyone back to work.
Rick Reeb at the Cottonwood Steakhouse said his team opened the restaurant on March 5 looking forward to a good year, but he was forced to close almost immediately.
And at the Stateline, Manager Cheyenne Venturella reports that all eight employees have been laid off.
Though the restaurant is closed, she explained, they are still offering carry out options from their menu out of the Sinclair in Dove Creek.
Unfortunately, that is not preventing them from losing most of their business, including virtually everything from San Juan and Grand counties.
As they await word from the governor’s office within the next week, it goes without saying that restaurant owners in San Juan County and the entire state hope to get back to business as usual as soon as possible.
Ronnie Biard said when discussing the dire situation in Monument Valley, “I’ve been through MERS, SARS, hantavirus, and 9/11, but I’ve never seen anything like [COVID-19].”
But he added, “We’ll work together, and we’ll get through it.”
That may express may people’s sentiments very well.