Downtown Kent bars and restaurants hit with extra expenses due to COVID-19

 Since the COVID-19 pandemic first caused businesses to shut their doors in March, local businesses nationwide have had to do everything in their power to stay afloat. Many businesses have not been able to do enough to keep their businesses open. Now that restaurants and bars have been able to open their doors to customers, the businesses that have stayed open have to handle a new set of challenges to get through. In downtown Kent, Ohio it has been the same story as everywhere else. 

In order to keep up with the setbacks caused by this global pandemic, businesses have had to stay on top of everything. The single most important thing for these local businesses has been creating a safe environment for customers and employees. Public health officials are making regular visits to restaurants and bars to observe how well the COVID-19 regulations are being followed. This puts the responsibility on the employees of the restaurant or bar to ensure they are operating in a safe environment. 

Mark Movens, manager of Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Kent shared some of the struggles of maintaining a safe restaurant environment. 

“high touch points; door handles, bathrooms, front doors, tables, chairs are getting wiped down,” said Movens. “Every time someone gets up now every single thing is getting wiped down. Compared to the staff we used to have operating on a smooth day, now I feel like we’ve had to staff more people just to keep these areas cleaner.” 

This is just one of the extra expenses’ that businesses have had to take on that have proven to be a burden. Movins explained how maintaining the right environment to operate in under these circumstances has caused them to assume the cost of things they otherwise wouldn’t have to. 

“We have no more saltshakers or anything out on the tables anymore, we have to buy everything pre-packaged and whatever doesn’t get used gets thrown out,” said Movens. “Everything we can use is throwaway. We’ve had to take on the cost of more plasticware that just gets thrown out when its used and that adds up.’’ 

 I spoke to Charlie Thomas, the owner of Ray’s Place in downtown Kent, who had this to say about the added costs that comes with operating a bar and restaurant during a global pandemic. 

“The added expenses have been tremendous,” said Thomas. “Thinsense gloves that the kitchen wears went up from $33 for a case of one thousand to $112-$114 a case. Paper towels, we don’t use regular towels now they have to go in the trash. We had to take our paper menus and laminate them and the ones that are dirty go into a bin to be sanitized before going back out with the others. You’ve got those costs; you’ve got the masks and all the different sanitizers we’re using. It’s unbelievable.” 

A major added expense for many of these restaurants have been to go boxes. Both Charlie Thomas and Mark Movens specifically mentioned them as a major expense as well as Alyssa Dennis, the head server at Over Easy in downtown Kent. 

“One thing that really surprised me during the whole pandemic was how many to-go boxes we were going through because we have had so many more online orders than before,” said Dennis. 

Thomas had this to say about the to-go boxes: “We’re doing 20-30 times more to-go orders than we used to. Every one of them goes into a to-go container which costs at minimum from 12 cents up to 50-60 cents, so you have all kinds of these added costs.” 

Average cost of to-go box: 36 cents 
$360=1,000 to-go boxes 
25x$360= Rays spends $9,000 for every $360 they used to spend on to go boxes 
Ray’s place cost of to-go boxes

Some other added expenses that these businesses have taken on for precaution have been masks for both employees and customers and plexiglass screens between tables and in front of bars.  

During the summer downtown Kent launched Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA) which did some to help the restaurants and bars downtown. DORA was put in place downtown so that people could carry drinks in marked DORA cups if they had a wristband. This allowed restaurants and bars to worry less about capacity levels and serve more customers 

“One thing is that DORA outdoor seating thing and that has helped us a lot,” said Thomas. “But that’s all going to change when the weather changes and people have to start making the decision if they want to eat inside or not eat anywhere.” 

Though DORA did give an added boost to some of these restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings didn’t exactly get the same boost as a place like Ray’s place did. 

“it was very limited because I don’t know if a lot of people really knew what it was or what we could bring to the table,” said Movens. “I don’t think the cities plan was really well established on what you could and what you couldn’t do so I feel that the plan wasn’t really set in motion very well being presented to us.” 

Movens stated that they did have some groups come in and take advantage of the DORA cups but believes it could’ve been done better. 

COVID-19 has proven to be a burden for everybody, however businesses in downtown Kent are doing everything they can to stay on top of their new responsibilities. 

Tweet: How are downtown Kent bars handling COVID-19 expenses?

Charlie Thomas, Ray’s Place owner
Alyssa Dennis, Over Easy head server
Mark Movens, Buffalo Wild Wings manager
Charlie Thomas, Ray’s Place owner
Alyssa Dennis, Over Easy head server
Mark Movens, Buffalo Wild Wings manager