Restaurants do their part to see kids stay fed

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Take out orders only during pandemic restrictionsTake out orders only during pandemic restrictions

  • Employees at Arby's post a sign on the window that reads "Drive Thru Open" following Gov. Roy Cooper's order last week that restaurants can no longer have dine-in service. It's one of many measures the government has put in place to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
    Employees at Arby's post a sign on the window that reads "Drive Thru Open" following Gov. Roy Cooper's order last week that restaurants can no longer have dine-in service. It's one of many measures the government has put in place to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
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In Swain County, one of the first concerns over schools closing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus was how will students who rely on school meals still get fed?

Last week, in addition to Swain County Schools stepping up and both offering meals out of the cafeterias at East, West and Middle schools and by delivery on bus routes, several restaurants in town began offering a free meal to school children.

The kid-friendly meals should help both make kids happy and help their parents a little, too.

The first sign of the free meals was on the door of La Dolce Vita Bakery, which just reopened to the public last month after finishing the newly constructed building and expanding the menu. Gianna T. Carson, the owner, has children in school herself, so she is well aware of the fact that for many students and parents making up for all the meals available at the school is a hardship.

Soon, other businesses in town took note and joined the effort to make something available for free every day to schoolchildren.

Adrian Litzau at Anthony’s Restaurant said a child size portion of spaghetti with garlic knots has been popular and that they served around 10 on Thursday afternoon.

“I feel it’s making a real difference,” Litzau said. “I spoke with someone who is a single parent and they have kids at home, young teens, and I told her if they are within walking distance, send them down; if not, let us come out. I don’t want a single parent to feel like they have to be there to feed their children if it’s a burden we can take on.”

Mike Shaker of Everett Street Diner said when he heard about the need among students and that other restaurants were stepping up, he wanted his business to do their part, especially for breakfast. His diner is offering a free sausage biscuit to students.

“I tell people all the time in my dining room, no matter where you’re from, you will find a true sense of community in this town and this county. It’s self evident with the other restaurants that stepped up,” he said.

Shaker said he made sure to share the businesses offering students a meal on the diner’s Facebook page, to help spread the word.

“At this time, it’s not about marketing or promoting yourself making sure kids are taken care of,” he said.

Since restaurants are under executive order from the governor to exclude dine-in, all of the meals are to go and are limited to one daily per child.

On Sunday, Anthony’s announced the restaurant would be closing for the time being due to area governments essentially shutting down and to keep people safe. 

A few additional restaurants, including Mountain Perks Espresso Bar & Café and Cornerstone Cafe and Gifts, Boxcar Café & Cones, which were also offering food for school children before they, too, closed over the weekend to help protect the safety of people during the virus outbreak.

The first restaurants in town to close their doors as a precaution until at least early April were Pasqualino’s Restaurant and Poblano’s. BBQ Wagon has also closed for the time as did Mountain Layers Brewing Company.

 

The following food for school children is available: 

CJ’s Grille, kids cheeseburger or hotdog basket

Everett Street Diner, breakfast sausage biscuit

Iron Wok Asian Cuisine, two spring rolls

La Dolce Vita Bakery, bagel with topping

McDonalds, sausage biscuit or hot cakes/ cheeseburger or 4 piece nugget

 

Layoffs at restaurants, economic impact

Last Tuesday, NC Governor Roy Cooper made the tough decision in an executive order effective within hours that restaurants and bars would only be allowed to offer take-out and would no longer be allowed to let people dine in. The order came after a busy weekend in some of the state’s metropolitan areas where people filled restaurants and bars despite the news the week before to limit large group gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In Bryson City, the impact was immediate as restaurant owners had to temporarily layoff workers from wait staff to dishwashers.

“When people come to the diner, they are coming not only for good food service and they are looking for the dining experience and that’s not there right now so that’s a significant impact,” said Shaker of Everett Street Diner.

The spirit of gathering as a community is missing.

“Usually there are folks at the counter, and the problems of the world are solved sometimes in this diner. The social interaction is just not there.”

The executive order is in place until March 31 for now, but many anticipate it could last longer. For restaurant workers, who in a tourist-based town like Bryson City make up a big part of the workforce— the impact is immediate, unexpected and challenging.

“I watched the Governor’s speech on Tuesday, and in the process of watching that I started texting all my wait staff and kitchen staff to apply for unemployment,” Litzau of Anthony’s Restaurant said.

Last week, he was rotating the staff while the restaurant is open for take out and delivery. It’s a hard hit for most of the workers, he said.

“They’ve removed restrictions for unemployment benefits, but especially for wait staff it’s going to be devastating,” he said. “I’ve got people who work week to week.”

Shaker too, said there was no way around having to let workers go for the time being. On weekends, he said he usually has about four people working in the kitchen and Friday there was just one.

“Last weekend before the executive order, we were busy like a summer weekend,” Shaker said.

Litzau said at Anthony’s, they are doing what they can to keep business going as much as possible through this difficult time.

“The community support has been really good,” he noted.

It’s uncertain how long the closures will last, and some suspect that the Governor’s order will be extended or, as indicated by actions taken in other states that have been harder hit thus far by outbreaks of coronavirus that the government could order short-term closures.

In addition to spring break visitors, Shaker said there are many groups that travel through the area and patron the diner, such as the Mini Cooper Club that has 800 vehicles and the recently started Beetles club that brings around 75 to town in early May. It’s unclear yet whether these trips will be moving forward for 2020.

“There’s lots of things like that; I think are going to be effected at least into May and further on,” Shaker said.

The restrictions could lift within weeks or stretch out over months.

“We don’t know exactly what the economic impacts are going to be long term. No one anticipated this,” Litzau said.

Both Anthony’s and Everett Street Diner reported excellent business the previous two weekends for this time of year. Usually, late March and early April offers an uptick in sales as people travel to the Bryson City during spring break.

“This has decimated any financial gain from spring break, which is hurtful for a lot of people,” Litzau said.

Regardless, he stressed that people’s health is the priority. “We all need to stay safe—flatten the curve—and we’re a small community and we need to do all we can to help each other out.”

Among the other restaurants in town that are still open are for take out orders:

High Test Deli & Sweet Shop

The Bistro at the Everett Hotel

The Iron Skillet

Cardinal Coffee

Guayabito’s

Nabor’s

Bojangles

Arby’s

Burger King

Subway

Pizza Hut

Nantahala Brewing Burger + Bar

In addition, Mad Meal Preps is offering delivery this week for its customers who are staying home. To order, find the group on Facebook. Orders must be in by Monday mornings.

Darnell Farms is also still serving customers, and you can even order online at their website. The store is also extending a charge account to locals.