People spread out around the flagpole at St. John’s Blymire’s United Church Of Christ on Wednesday morning and prayed for the community, nurses and doctors, government leaders and many others during the turmoil from the coronavirus pandemic. York Daily Record
Boyer’s Tavern in Rexmont opened its doors for the first time on March 10.
Less than two weeks later, owner Bobby Angelo is already having to deal with an unprecedented situation, as restaurants and businesses across the state are shutdown because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Business boomed during the first week, Angelo said, and they were making preparations for a huge event on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’ve waited a long time to open up a restaurant,” Angelo said. “Because of the success that we had the first five days we were open, I was just really excited to see what the future holds.”
Now that future is in limbo, as Angelo is limited to just takeout and delivery service. They’ve had mild success with that through social media advertising, Angelo said, and could survive for six weeks, maybe two months. But any longer than that, and Angelo said he would have to consider shutting his doors for a time.
“It’s definitely a punch in the stomach,” Angelo said.
Angelo isn’t alone. Several other restaurant owners in Lebanon, including a few who have owned their establishments for decades, said they don’t know how long they can survive without customers.
While they all acknowledged how crucial it is to limit the spread of COVID-19, it doesn’t make the effect on their businesses any easier to handle.
And, as the COVID-19 outbreak gets worse daily in Pennsylvania, it is unclear when life will return to normal.
“It’s not having an end date yet that I think is fearful for people,” said Karen Groh, president of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Every single day for a small business is critical to the survival of it.”
Long-time owners face unprecedented challenge
Steve Lynn has owned the Quentin Tavern for 18 years and been in the restaurant business for 50. In all that time, he’s never seen a situation like this.
Lynn said one of the more difficult parts of this week was informing his staff of roughly 40 people that they were out of work.
“Something I’ve never had to do in 50 years of business is urge my staff to apply for unemployment,” Lynn said. “It’s hurtful to have to tell long-term employees, dedicated people, ‘Sorry but we won’t be able to put you to work.'”
Those conversations weren’t any easier for John Horstick, who has owned nearby Quentin Haus Restaurant for almost 40 years.
On a normal Friday morning, the restaurant’s parking lot on Cornwall Road is packed with cars. Now, Horstick said their business has dwindled dramatically, as their customer base – which skews older – have not called in many orders for takeout.
In his half-century in the restaurant business, Horstick said the only thing that has come even close to rivaling the current crisis was Hurricane Agnes in 1972.
At least then, they knew when the flooding was over.
“I’m more of an optimist, but right now I’m pessimistic,” Horstick said. “It’s difficult to be positive and upbeat because everything is so unknown.”
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‘I might lose everything’
Fallout from the novel coronavirus is also affecting other food establishments.
Stands in the Lebanon Farmer’s Market are allowed to stay open, but customers are few, and the tables where they normally would enjoy their food have been taken away.
Dee Sanders, who owns the stand Divas Have to Eat, said business has been incredibly slow in recent days. Sanders opened the stand last summer and said sales had been going well since then. She used money from her own pocket to open up shop, not taking on any loans. Now, she has nothing to fall back on.
“I’m not trying to lose my business, my home, my livelihood,” Sanders said. “I hope this is over as soon as possible, otherwise I might lose everything.”
At the same time Sanders has had to deal with a steep drop-off in business, she is human, too, and has concerns for her own well-being.
“Us, as small business owners, we need you more than ever,” Sanders said. “We need all the support and prayers that we can get, because the same way you’re suffering, we’re suffering as well.”
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