May I Take Your Takeout Order? WNC Restaurants Struggle To Cope With COVID-19 Restrictions

Mar 23, 2020

While much of BPR's coronavirus coverage is dedicated to updates from health and government officials, we are working to reach out to the community - including local restaurants.  On Tuesday March 17, Governor Roy Cooper issued an Executive order closing sit-down Service at restaurants and bars across the state– which forced many to close.  But some have been working to stay open including a sandwich shop down the street from the Blue Ridge Public Radio.  BPR's  Helen Chickering has been checking in..

 Welcome to Loretta’s...
 
It’s a Thursday March 19, in a very different downtown Asheville - two days after the governor announced the end of restaurant dine-in service. Nicholas Vaughn Eller is manning the counter at Loretta’s café and catering, a staple on North Lexington, known for their soups and piled high sandwiches on homemade bread - and walls filled with tchotchkes-

“Well we're only on day two and it's still just a tad bit early to call it for today,” says Nicholas von Eller. “Yesterday we, we did about decent, we did more deliveries than we normally did, but um, it's the only option we have.”

Longtime employee Terri Wiggins was packing to go orders.  She says she’s thankful to still have a job, but has mixed feelings about it all.

“Um, I go back and forth about being excited about being here and serving the public  - part of me would rather be home,” says Wiggins, “because as most people are,  I'm slightly frightened and I think we should be. And so, because of that, I've been, you know, incredibly precautious about how I handle things"

“That’s one order of chicken salad.”

The Café is taking it day by day hoping to drum up enough business to make it through the long haul.

“Two peanut butter and an oatmeal raisin, got it!”

“I honestly don't remember the last time I've seen things this quiet,” says Eller.” Um, I would ask that everyone try to try to keep a cool head and uh, come get a sandwich from 10 until three.

Next door is a different story..                                                      

“We are closed. We closed a couple of days ago.”  

That’s Rosetta Star with Rosetta’s Kitchen, a  popular vegetarian restaurant and a staple among locals...

“We spent all day yesterday dividing up our perishables amongst our crew,” says Star.  “We made that choice because we were already hemorrhaging financially so fast that it felt like the safest way to keep any cash reserves and pay the things that we already owed while also getting our staff some hopefully security through unemployment.” 

Star has opened up the restaurant space as a storage facility for food donations -  ang when asked about reopening.

“We very much hope so,” says Star, “but we don't see a clear map right now. You know what I've told others is  I've got my guiding stars, I've got my compass set, but I have no idea the map. “

The next day we checked back in with the crew at Lorettas.

“Hey!”

The air felt heavier and you could see the stress on Nick Vaughn Eller’s face - as he worked to crack a smile…

“Everybody's finally tired and stressed to the point to where it's starting to show,” he said.

HC: “How did Thursday go?

"Um, it was about the same as Wednesday. We had, I would say, all things considered maybe the slow to steady business up until about two, and then it just died off.  So, nothing too drastically different from the day before."

HC:  Have you had to cut down on staff at this point?

“We have cut down on staff.  We have laid off a few of our employees, few of our employees so that they can go and file for unemployment.

HC: Do you think you will be here on Monday?

“We do not know. Once again, we're doing it, uh, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, um, edict by edict. Um, so we'll see. We're trying to stay positive and you know, treat this new unreality with the respect it deserves.”

We checked in on Monday, March 23:

We'll continue to check in on the staff at Loretta's, Rosetta's and the many restuarants in the region.  Have you been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions?  We'd love to hear from you.