The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 09, 2020 1:00 am

Recent closure indicator of trend


The closure was supposed to be temporary.

John and Lindsey Cheesebrew hoped that at some point they would be able to reopen Bird + Cleaver, their trendy North Wells Street restaurant.

“We are hopeful that we'll all come out better on the other side of this,” she wrote in an email.

But last week, they announced the restaurant would not reopen. The decision made in October would be permanent.

“This year has dealt us all an unbelievably terrible hand, and unfortunately, our story is not a unique one. This decision has not been easy, as this has been our dream for more than 15 years,” the Cheesebrews wrote in a social media post.

Indeed, their story is not unique. According to National Restaurant News, about 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently (or long-term) since March. In the past three months, 10,000 restaurants have closed.

The organization released a study Monday. It surveyed 6,000 operators from Nov. 16 to 30. The findings were sent as part of a letter to congressional leadership in regards to the COVID relief package.

“What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every business type – franchise, chain, and independent – are in an economic free fall,” Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association's executive vice president for public affairs, said in the letter. “And for every month that passes without a solution from Congress, thousands more restaurants will close their doors for good.”

Among the local restaurants that have closed are Bravas, Caliente Cuban Cafe, Azar's Big Boy and Lindi's downtown deli.

Most full-service restaurants – 87% – saw a 36% drop in sales revenue over the past three months, according to the survey. And most operators expect the next three months to be worse.

Thomas Parisi, director of operations for Casa restaurants, says they saw a 40% drop in sales with the recent executive order on dining capacity.

Sales had fluctuated at the local restaurants but had reached 85% of typical levels in the fall.

Casa, though, has always “relied on a strong carryout business with normal carryout sales representing 30% to 32% of sales,” Parisi says. “Presently carryout sales are 55% to 60% of our business and, depending on the daily shift itself, even higher.”

As a family-owned business, Parisi says, Casa has made it a priority to keep managers and staff employed during this difficult time.

“Our financial philosophy during the pandemic has been to do our best to control cost and if we can break even our managers and staff have done a wonderful job,” he says.

For the Hall restaurants, those that offered drive-thru and curb-side service have fared better, Ben Hall says. Full-service restaurants have suffered a much greater blow.

“Specifically, there seemed to be an invisible cliff that we fell off of around the end of October and beginning of November,” he says.

While there are variables beyond restaurants' control, such as weather and government mandates, Hall is hopeful that restaurants will see a bump in December.

TinCaps kits

The TinCaps are trying to make spirits bright with a holiday-themed survival kit.

The offerings include a 12-pack seasonal craft beer sampler, three wines and apple dumpling desserts. Packages will include a tasting guide with details about each beverage.

A 12-pack seasonal craft beer sampler costs $34.95, while a holiday wine trio is $29.95 and six apple dumpling desserts are $18.95. Fans have the option to purchase all three packages or can select just one or two.

Tax is not included.

Fans can order the “Holiday Survival Package” online. Curbside pickup will be Dec. 22. Orders are due by 8 p.m. Dec. 20.

To order, go to

Winery changes

Two area wineries are suspending on-site tasting in response to local COVID case numbers.

Two EE's Winery in Roanoke and Country Heritage Winery in La Otto recently shared that they will be offering carryout sales through the holiday season.

In a social media post, Country Heritage said the move is to “make sure we can keep our doors open next week, next month, and next year, and keep our employees and guests healthy.”

Both wineries are offering to-go wine slushees, which were popular in the spring.

At Two EE's, 32-ounce slushee pouches are $22 and available in Plonqé and peach flavors.

Country Heritage will be offering a 32-ounce version of its Jolly Juice Slushies for $20. The winery will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Christmas specials

Restaurants and bakeries with holiday deals or advance ordering should email by Friday for possible inclusion in a future column.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email or call 461-8304 at least two weeks before event or desired publication.

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