Making it in the Mid-South: Restaurant owners remind diners they’re open for business

WATCH: Making It in the Mid-South: Restaurant owners remind diners they're open for business

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — About a dozen Memphis restaurant owners met Wednesday to remind the public they are open for business.

It’s a trying time as restaurants struggle to pay bills. One business waited until Phase Two to bring employees back to work.

Arcade Restaurant has been a part of the community for more than 100 years -- 101 years to be exact.

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The restaurant just reopened its doors this week. Managers and staff took a vote to see who felt comfortable coming back to work.

“Crazy to think that this last year has been our 100th anniversary and that we just expanded the business this year, so it’s been a little bit of a disappointment with corona obviously going on,” owner Jeff Zepatos.

Downtown Memphis businesses have been hit the hard by the coronavirus.

Little foot traffic forced restaurants like Arcade to delay its reopening date until this week.

With tourism down and fewer people staying the night at hotels, that means businesses on South Main have to work a lot harder to convince customers that their restaurants are safe.

“Temperature checks. We’re taking off communal items off the tables,” said Zepatos.

Memphis Restaurant Association president Ernie Mellor met with about a dozen business owners Wednesday with a message to the public -- They’re open and need your business now that more restaurants are opening this week.

But not everyone is going back to work.

“There are other owners that are simply going to wait until we open back at 100 percent because their business model will not allow them to. You’re not making money at 50 percent,” Mellor said.

The Arcade is a family-owned business that knows if it can survive 101 years of ups and down, it can weather any storm.

“With the Arcade we really want to help downtown re-energize. We really want to see South Main come back,” said Zepatos.

FOX13 asked business owners what they are doing to make people feel safe inside their restaurants.

WATCH: Many restaurants taking condiments off the table and using individual servings

The condiments you’re used to seeing on the tables are going away until further notice at many restaurants. Instead you’ll get individual items to avoid spreading germs.

The tables are going to look bare. Salt and pepper shakers could go away for good, even after the pandemic.

Just imagine what could happen if dozens of people touched the salt and pepper shakers while out to eat. To make matters worse, what if someone didn’t wash their hands?

“There’s some things that we’ve done for years in the restaurant business, like condiments on tables, and that’s one particular item that I think, me personally, I’m probably done with that,” said Kooky Canuck President Shawn Danko. “We’re not going to leave condiments on the table indefinitely.”

Danko said the changes will happen at both of his restaurants, including the one in downtown Memphis.

“We’ll bring you individuals of salt and mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard as you need it, so that way we’re not leaving items on the table for multiple people to touch for multiple days,” Danko said.

Danko joined several restaurant owners from across the city Wednesday morning to let the public know they’re open and need your business.

Downtown restaurants are taking the biggest hit during this pandemic while eateries out east are doing a little better.

“We’re up against Memphis in May downtown,” Danko said. “These are big numbers. This is our biggest month of the year. Biggest month of the year. So, when you start looking side by side to last year, the numbers look very disheartening.”

The Payment Protection Program loan helped keep the doors open at Kooky Cannuck, including employees who didn’t have enough work experience to qualify for benefits.

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