LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear’s decision to increase capacity limits will continue to impact many Kentuckians, among them bars and restaurant owners.
"I can tell you right now, if we’re forced into another shutdown, I can’t afford to do it. I’ll have to shut down. I can’t afford to do just carryouts," Todd Zaborac, owner of Check’s BBQ & Blues in Louisville, told Spectrum News 1.
It’s been a roller coaster for nearly a year for bar and restaurant owners across the country.
"I’d give anything not to be in a restaurant right now," Zaborac said.
He said the restrictions have led to declines in business, but the bills continue to trickle in.
"Everything that I’ve got is sunk into this restaurant, and now I’m going to keep going farther and farther in debt," Zaborac said.
The restaurant owner said he continues to reconfigure his BBQ joint to make it work. However, the governor’s announcement to increase capacity limits for many businesses, including bars and restaurants to 60% capacity, is a big deal for him.
"Restaurants are on such a tight budget, it’s just hard for us to make money with only being able to do this percentage. Even at 60%, 75% wouldn’t help us. It’s going to have to go to 100%," Zaborac said.
Stacy Roof, president and CEO of Kentucky’s Restaurant Association, said she had mixed reactions to the relaxed restrictions.
"The governor and the health department have said that the last thing they want is for people gathering outside of regulated environments. Well, a restaurant is a heavily regulated restaurant," Roof said.
Roof added that for those in the hospitality industry to be successful, it’s all about the numbers.
"We have been pushing for months and especially since the holidays past for the bar seating and service restriction to go away and for the curfew to go away because those actually afford operators more seats inside," Roof said.
Beshear’s decision to relax restrictions comes as COVID-19 continues to decline in the Bluegrass State, including falling cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
"We were excited to increase capacity, but the request to let everybody get up and come back together in a small area in front of the bar where we still have variants that aggressively spread that’s not a wise decision to make right now," Beshear said.
Zaborac and others in the hospitality industry alike are hoping things get back to somewhat normal soon.
He said even with the increased capacity, it will be a daily struggle.
"The percentage that we’re down is astronomic. It’s a big number. Every day we’re losing money," Zaborac said.
The new orders will take effect on Friday, March 5. The mask mandate is still in effect for all businesses.