Restaurants trying to adapt during early stages of pandemic

Charlie Denison
Senior Reporter
Friday, March 20, 2020
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Doc’s General Manager Yvette Nalder sanitizes a table in the bar area Thursday morning. Nalder and Doc’s owner Tony Brown were hoping to stay open but Governor Steve Bullock shut down dine-in food service and alcoholic beverage businesses Friday morning.
Photo by Charlie Denison

During this troubling time, it’s easy to panic, it’s easy to go stir crazy with cabin fever, and it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost your sense of community.
That’s what Doc’s owner Tony Brown was hoping to avoid.
Now is the time when the community needs a safe spot, a place they can go they know is clean, and a place they can enjoy the company of others.
That place, he said, is Doc’s Casino Sports Bar Grill.
“We don’t have the disease here,” Brown said. “We sanitize and sterilize the tables, the chairs, all flat surfaces… anything that comes to the table was cleaned by the service staff.”
Brown told this to the News-Argus on Thursday morning. On Friday, however, Governor Steve Bullock announced measures to close all dine-in food services, alcoholic beverage businesses and “other activities that pose enhanced health risks.”
“Both young and older Montanans, in urban and rural communities, have tested positive for coronavirus, making it even more clear that this virus impacts us all and that these actions are imperative to protecting our friends and neighbors,” Bullock said in his directive, which officially went into effect Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m.
Brown was aware of the concerns. He checked updates on the virus several times a day. He was also aware of the restrictions to prevent groups of 10 people or more from gathering. He’d shut down Bingo and other upcoming events Nevertheless, Bullock’s announcement caught him off-guard.
“I understand the government needs its money, but this is going to hurt us all,” Brown said. “This is tough. We don’t have any cases here. If we did I’d understand, you know? Our plan was going to work…and they crapped all over it.”
Brown believed in keeping his place open for the sake of social solidarity.

“This community is a family,” Brown said Thursday, “and now is the time to be around family. By supporting local businesses, people stay united and comforted, and they also avoid picking up the virus out of town.”
The new rule from Bullock may close the doors for Doc’s, but there are still opportunities for people to support small businesses, and Brown suggests they do so.
“If people go to Billings or Great Falls to shop, there is potential they could pick up the virus and put the community at risk. There have been cases,” Brown said. “Hopefully if people stay here, it won’t come here.”
Despite the surprising news, Brown said a lot can be learned from this experience, adding that he hopes Doc’s can be an example people in the community will be more intentional when it comes to cleanliness and heightened awareness of their surroundings.
“It takes 28 days to change a pattern,” he said. “This is our opportunity to stay clean.”
As of press time, Brown said he was undecided about staying open for take-out orders.

Brooks Market
In order to ensure the health and safety of her customers, Brooks Market owner Debbie Rankin has closed the dining room.
“We’re doing take-out orders only,” she said. “We have one person up front and one person making the food.”
Rankin said no one told her to shut down, but she shares the community’s concern and wants to do her part to slow down the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Rankin said she knows these are the right moves to make at this time, but she wonders how long this will be the case. How long is shutdown sustainable?
“I’m hearing there is a possibility kids won’t get to go to school this year,” she said. “If that’s the case, this is going to get worse. Without schools and daycare, how can my employees work?”
Despite a looming outbreak and a closed dining room, Rankin said business has still been good.
“We’ve been getting a fair amount of takeout orders,” she said. “We can keep afloat.”

Eagles Club
New Eagles manager Teresa Lamphier is looking out for her customers and employees during this trying time.
“The health and safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority,” she said. “We continue to monitor the coronavirus situation closely, and we are following the prevention guidelines offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
A former co-owner of the Bar 19 and the Montana Tavern, Lamphier said she has high standards of cleanliness, maintenance and sanitation. She hoped to keep the bar open longer, but when word came from Bullock to shut down on Friday, she had no qualms about cooperating.
“Spend one-on-one time with the people you love,” Lamphier said. “Be productive and tackle that project you’ve been meaning to do. Read a good book. Check on your elderly neighbors. Be kind to others and have fun.”
 Lamphier said she has also canceled all scheduled gatherings of 10 or more until Wednesday, April 1. Taco Tuesday is not open to the public, but cook Randy Berry will provide curbside service while the closure is in effect.
“We’ll give it a try and see how it goes,” said Berry. “I don’t know how long the closing is going to go on for but it could be a while.”
“We want to do our part to be socially responsible,” added Lamphier.“This is nothing to mess around with.”
Lamphier encourages the public to take care.
“It’s a strange world right now,” she said, “but not without hope.”

As of Tuesday, McDonald’s nationwide moved to drive-thru and walk-in take-out only.
“Through this unprecedented and challenging time for families and individuals, McDonald’s will do our part to continue to be a place people can count on to deliver a familiar, comforting and delicious experience, no matter where they are,” McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger said in a news release Tuesday.
According to Erlinger, ensuring the health and safety of the people and their respective communities is the company’s highest priority as “the United States quickly mobilizes to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Erlinger added that McDonald’s has “some of the highest standards of cleanliness and are closely working with national and local government and health authorities to ensure they are taking all the right steps.”
Local McDonald’s owner Pete Peterson said he believes in the organization and will abide by their recommendations. Other fast-food restaurants are taking similar precautions.



Do you think Montana is ready to move on to the next phase of the governor's re-opening plan?