When the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit New York City, Keavy Landreth decided to close his bakery-bar Butter & Scotch, both for the safety of its staff and customers. The bar has been closed for more than two weeks, so owners Landreth and Allison Kave make sure no one is sick and that they can pay their staff a risk premium for part-time work.
This turned out to be an extremely wise move, as Landreth ended up showing all the symptoms of the virus around eight days after the business closed.
“I wanted to shut down completely for 2 weeks, for everyone to come home and make sure they don’t have it, which was good. I ended up falling with COVID about eight days after our shutdown, ”Landreth said. After waiting another three weeks, they made the decision to reopen for the take out window and delivery service.
Since then, the spot has exceeded its delivery and take-out limit every day.
“The first week was crazy. We have never had so many orders before, and my phone, which alerts me every time we receive an order, has been fully on for 24 hours, ”said Landreth. The company has since hired a new customer service person to deal with ordering issues.
Butter & Scotch is also one of the lucky companies to be approved for a PPP loan, and they hope the timeframe for spending the money will be extended beyond eight weeks as originally planned. They applied about a month ago and have just received the funds.
Demand far exceeds the orders they are currently placing, but Landreth says they won’t be increasing uptime for a while because they only allow two employees at a time in the small space.
“You are responsible for these people, and I think mentally it helps a lot of your employees,” Landreth said of the staff restriction. Despite this, Butter & Scotch was able to rehire more than half of its original employees.
The company’s future, however, depends on several things, Landreth says, including their ability to renegotiate rent.
“This new business model is working and we’ve had a lot of orders, but it’s still not enough to pay the rent we were paying. We are fine as the staff is halved and we are currently not paying our rent, but that is really going to depend on if I can get it [the landlords] to negotiate a new rental price due to the circumstances, ”said Landreth. “But, they haven’t been accommodating at all.”
Landreth also says she won’t feel comfortable reopening fully, even if the state allows them, until a vaccine is in place.
“I can’t imagine taking someone’s temperature before they enter the bar. I can’t imagine doing this for just any hospitality industry. I know people are going to have to do it, but it sets the tone, ”says Landreth. That and the factor of the bar’s small space would prevent it from opening up the way she wanted it to.
Landreth sees the future of bars and restaurants based on innovation – cocktail and wine subscriptions, as well as possible offers for in-home dining.
“When the restaurants open I just don’t think it’s going to be the warm and friendly experience you want,” she added.
She also sees the potential for a mass exodus from New York restaurants, especially now that liability laws are in place to protect owners from owner retaliation.
In the meantime, she says, remember to be patient and be kind to those in the industry who serve you.
“I hope, I hope, I hope we can get vaccinated, and in a few years we can all be sitting at the bar at our favorite restaurants,” Landreth said. In the meantime, order some cake.