LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Some restaurant owners in Little Rock will not be opening up their dining rooms on May 11 because they feel it is not time to safely do so.
Jack Sundell, owner of the Root Cafe and Mockingbird in downtown Little Rock, has no plans to reopen his restaurants on May 11. He plans on continuing curbside service.
"Doing curbside and handing someone a sack of food through a car window is one thing, but having people come to the patio or dining room, sitting down to eat, and having us clean up after them, that's a really different set of circumstances," Sundell said.
Restaurants can only allow 33 percent of their customers inside and there must be "physical distancing between customers and tables." But Sundell feels Arkansas still has too many cases to even think about opening his doors.
"We are going to wait and see what feels right based on the CDC guidelines," he said. “Our top priority is keeping our staff safe and our customers safe and we just don’t know if we can do that 100 percent if we reopen the dining room.”
Gio Bruno, the owner of Bruno's in downtown Little Rock, believes opening up restaurants is a premature decision. He also plans on sticking to curbside.
"I'm in my 65th year, the last thing I want to do is let a bunch of people in the door that can kill me," Bruno said.
But businesses are eligible for up to $100,000 through a state grant to help them re-open when they want to. That amount of money is a big deal for owners like Sundell, who completely shut down Mockingbird in March. All of his employees were laid off, and inventory is completely cleared out.
"It can take tens of thousands of dollars to reopen an operation. To have a grant from the state that will help jump-start that process is a really big deal," Sundell said.
Mockingbird will open back up on May 12 for curbside pick-up only. The Root will continue curbside pick-up as well for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as groceries.
Yellow Rocket, the group that owns restaurants like Heights Taco and Big Orange, is working to determine the best date to open. In a statement to THV11, it said:
"We're spending the next couple of weeks determining a date that will allow us to have proper procedures and adequate supplies in place for the absolute best and safest in-store dining and working experience for our crew and guests. Until we determine the best date for our individual stores to reopen in any capacity for dine-in service, we look forward to continuing our curbside and take-away services that are now in place."