After more than eight months of navigating economic and public health hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a D.C.-area restaurateur is preparing for more tough months ahead.
“I’m expecting that the winter is going to be very difficult for the restaurant industry,” said chef Geoff Tracy, who owns and operates restaurants in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
He said with the easing of some restrictions and better weather earlier this year, diners came back to the large patios at his restaurant, but many are still not comfortable dining inside.
“With reasonably decent weather, I would say 98% of people want to be outside,” Tracy said.
Now, with winter setting in and COVID-19 cases spiking around the region, he and his staff are preparing to possibly pivot back to the way things were done in March and April.
“The preparation is to make the menus designed for takeout and delivery, and we just hope for the best,” Tracy said.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, restaurants must only have up to 25% capacity; that number is 50% in D.C. He said, for his restaurants, they haven’t gotten close to 50% capacity so far.
Tracy fears as it gets colder, the area could return to the no dine-in restrictions seen when pandemic-related closures first happened in spring. “I just think that 95% of business is going to be takeout and delivery in the months of December, January, February and March,” he said.
Tracy said he also hopes Congress agrees on a new stimulus package, which he said helped him keep workers paid and rent current at his restaurants. Tracy said he didn’t expect the time between stimulus packages would have ended up being as long as it has turned out to be.
“I certainly would have spent that money a little bit differently had I known it was going to turn into a 24-week program,” he said.
To survive the winter, Tracy purchased outdoor propane heaters, which he hopes will make more people willing to dine outside while it remains an option.
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