HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Restaurants across the Tennessee Valley have done their best to protect customers while operating during this pandemic. With the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowing fully vaccinated to lose their masks, could we be one step closer to returning to life as normal?
One Huntsville restaurant owner explains how her restaurant fared over the past year, and how they’re moving forward from here.
“We just got as creative as we could to get through the tough part,” said Belinda Taylor, Flight Plan Wine and Tapas co-owner.
Curbside pickups, virtual wine tastings, and makeshift patio dining, just some of the changes Taylor says made to keep revenue coming in during the pandemic. She says they made an intense cleaning regimen, sanitizing everything from bill books to bathrooms between each use.
“The credit card; when we took it out of the machine, we would put a Sani Wipe around it and hand it back to the customer with a pen inside the Sani Wipe,” Taylor said. “Really, we felt we needed to go above and beyond what the CDC requested.”
They also downsized their indoor dining drastically. She says the precautions were worth it to keep guests safe, but costs did add up.
“I will venture to guess it was close to about 40-thousand dollars,” Taylor said. “Each chair is a loss of revenue.”
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. After more than a year of fighting to keep their doors open, the restaurant co-owner says they’ve officially begun their slow transition back to normal over the past two weeks, bringing back their lounge area and more tables.
The lounge area had been stored in Taylor’s garage since last spring.
A desire for normalcy, Taylor says, is showing in the number of guests coming back to Flight Plan.
“The tables were put back, not quite where they used to be, but not 6 feet apart so we’re somewhere in between now,” she said. “Between the CDC starting to transition, Governor Ivey starting to transition, all of those were signals to us that it was time.”
And the latest change has to do with masks. The CDC’s latest guidance suggesting those who are fully vaccinated can leave masks at home for their dinner dates.
“We’re leaving that option up to our guests, but as far as our employees, if they haven’t been fully vaccinated and waited the two weeks after the second shot, they have to continue to wear masks,” Taylor said.
Taylor said they’ve got a long way to go before they reach full pre-pandemic operation, but for the first time in a long time, there’s hope.
“I think we will be where we used to be, it’s just a matter of time.”
The restaurant even had to adjust their hours of operation during the pandemic. As of now, they’re closed on Sundays, but she looks forward to hopefully re-opening for brunch soon.