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Restaurant, cinema, bar owners talk about impact of state mandate

News photo — Andy Flynn These signs at Big Mountain Deli & Creperie on Main Street are seen Wednesday, March 18. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

New Yorkers will need to get their meals and drinks — even alcoholic ones — to go for the foreseeable future. While owners of restaurants and bars in the Tri-Lakes area are laying off servers and preparing for economic struggles, they are trying to stay positive about the future.

This state mandate on privately owned public meeting places during the spread of coronavirus says that take-out and delivery are the only restaurant services allowed. Dining in is banned.

The state Liquor Authority says it will provide bars with waivers to offer carry-out alcohol.

This mandate took effect as of 8 p.m. Monday, March 16, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as did the closing of gyms and movie theaters and the limiting of social gatherings to 50 people.

“It was expected, but it became real today,” said Johnny Williams, co-owner of Bitters & Bones in Saranac Lake. “I don’t think anybody plans for this sort of thing.”

In Lake Placid, Palace Theatre co-owner Barbara Clark said it will be a “trickle-down effect” of difficulty for every level of society.

“It’s definitely difficult, it has a major influence on the bottom line,” said Katy Van Anden, manager of the Lakeview Deli in Saranac Lake, which already does a lot of take-out business. “I think it’s going to do that for every restaurant in the area and all over the country.”

“This is unfortunate, but you know, we have to get on board,” State Theater owner Sally Strasser said in Tupper Lake. “I’ve been allocating my resources to try to weather this. The only thing I worry about is my employees.”

Layoffs

Several of the business owners this newspaper interviewed said they have or will have to lay off staff during this period. At the movie theaters, however, staff who are no longer taking tickets and popping corn may be put to work doing long-overlooked building upkeep.

“Some of these young kids are just starting out on their own; they have apartments to pay for and young families,” Clark said.

She said she is trying to take advantage of this time and help them earn money by hiring them to clean, paint and change light bulbs.

“I’m trying to look out for my staff,” she said.

Strasser said she is in a relatively good place to weather the coming weeks because she owns the theater building. She runs it with her husband and one full-time manager, whom she hopes she can continue to employ doing upkeep.

“Terrible for the movie (and restaurant) industry”

The major shutdowns of dine-in eating and movie theaters are expected to have lasting impacts on the economy, and the movie industry.

Movies have been in short supply as production companies hold back release or production on their blockbusters, not wanting to release a movie that can’t make its money back at the box office.

“This is terrible for the movie industry,” Clark said.

Strasser said Disney has been favoring releasing films on streaming services over the theater, and she hopes this does not become common practice. She said she hopes people come back out to the movies after the pandemic.

“Your house gets really small after a certain amount of time in it,” Strasser.

Clark said she has thought up some “gimmicks” to help the town when the Palace reopens, such as offering discounted tickets to people who bring food for the food pantry.

“We’ll get through this,” she said.

Strasser said she plans to order take-out from local restaurants to keep patronizing those businesses during this difficult time. She also suggested buying gift certificates for restaurants or theaters, which can be used after state regulations are lifted.

“I think we’re very lucky for being up in the North Country because we have such a great sense of community here,” Strasser said. “I can’t think of a better place to weather this.”