How protests and an ongoing pandemic are affecting downtown businesses

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Local businesses are sharing how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota have affected them — and how they’re adapting to changing times.

The COVID-19 pandemic completely shut down most restaurants and forced others to find creative ways to keep the income flowing.

WATE 6 On Your Side spoke to two restaurants that have locations in Market Square, which has seen recent protests after reopening amid the pandemic.

“Its been challenging, it’s really taken everything we have to sustain for ourselves, for our staff members,” Café 4 manager, Demetrios Klonaris, said.

“We started curbside after shutting down for almost eight weeks. Curbside was going okay, we had great support from a lot of community members, we really appreciated all the business but it was nothing like being open,” Klonaris said.

The Tomato Head restaurant also just barely made it through the pandemic, saying their Kingston Pike location remaining open for to-go orders is what kept their downtown location afloat.

Recent turmoil from around the country has caused increased activity in the downtown area, but managers say peaceful protests have actually drawn more business to local restaurants.

RELATED: Peaceful demonstrators march through downtown Knoxville

“If anything, it helped us. We had a few hungry and tired people coming in after the protest and we fed them,” The Tomato Head manager, Jackson Lloyd, said.

As Knox County continues with reopening under the phase 2 guidelines, both businesses say they hope customers will continue to come in. They are still closely following guidelines — keeping customers at a safe distance, wearing masks and disinfecting.

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