Coronavirus: Knoxville restaurants make changes after mayor’s executive order closes dining rooms due to COVID-19

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Mayor Indya Kincannon announced an executive order Friday, requiring all bars in the city limits to close and all restaurants to serve only take-out or delivery because of the coronavirus.

Several downtown bars and restaurants already closed their doors before the 8 p.m. deadline Friday night, but the few who were open must either shut their doors or change how they offer food.

Raymond Yip, the owner of Fin-Two Japenese Ale House in the Old City, said his bar was staying open until 8 p.m. Friday so they can get the last little bit of revenue possible.

He said that the dining area had already taken a hit with a lack of customers, but they still had some foot traffic for take-out.

Fin-Two just recently opened October 2019.

Yip said they were already starting to work on bettering their to-go options before the COVID-19 outbreak, but because of it and the executive order, they were forced to roll it out quicker.

He said he truly felt sorry for some other industries hit hard by the aspect of social distancing during the pandemic, but his ability to be flexible could be what keeps the business alive.

“We’re one of those industries where we have a little bit more flexibility, nimbleness to really stay open potentially. We have a huge amount of inventory that we need to turn over,” Yip said.

Fin-Two’s doors might be able to stay open, but some employees weren’t so fortunate in the process.

“Our employees have always been first and foremost. I feel like I lost a part of my family not being able to have everyone hired,” Yip said.

A few blocks down the road, one bar and restaurant wasn’t so lucky to be able to offer take-out food.

Nick DeVore, owner of Elkmont Exchange, said that during normal business operations, take-out counted for only 4% of their food sales.

He said that little would actually cost him more than to shut the kitchen down entirely.

DeVore made the decision to close the dining room before Mayor Kincannon made announced the executive order.

He said his sales started to drop drastically before then, and knew he needed to be ahead of whatever was going to happen next.

Devore called his vendors so he wouldn’t have to fork out the usually thousands of dollars’ worth of bills while not making any revenue.

The little revenue he would try to make during two weeks of closure would go to his employees.

“The goal is to drive enough revenue this week and next week to be able to pay all of my people to stay at home the whole time. Cause they’re really probably the only ones that are going to be uh greatest affected,” DeVore said.

He planned on making that revenue by selling $25 gift cards.

DeVore will keep Elkmont Exchange open, but he will be the only employee inside, trying to sell those gift cards.

Every customer who buys $25 worth of gift cards get a free four-pack of Elkmont Exchange beer.

Neither Yip or DeVore were upset with the decision that the city and county were making.

They knew that it was in the best interest of the restaurants and the community.

“They operate the city. They know when it’s safe and so I’m just listening to what they do, and what they say and just try to make sure that we’re staying operating and still being able to do to-go stuff and making sure that our business is going to still survive this uh, this big impact on our economy,” Yip said.

Both also said they have already seen the community offer their support.

DeVore said he doesn’t have to hope the community will help them make it through the hard time, because he knows that they will when the outbreak is over.

“You really see the community kind of rally around them and get behind them so, it’s really cheesy, but the whole Volunteer state, you know, I kind of firmly believe that,” DeVore said.

Elkmont Exchange will remain open to only sell canned beer for home and gift cards.

Fin-Two is offering delivery from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can order takeout or delivery on their website at fin-two.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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