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Bars and clubs wonder 'why' as week 10 of closures approaches

(WCTV)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 10:18 PM EDT
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By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News

May 26, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – "You gotta wonder why you doing it?"

That is the feeling of the Owner and President of Clyde's and Costellos, Dave Ericks. But it is a sentiment that is echoed by many bar and club owners.

As of Tuesday,

following an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis. But throughout the state, and across the country, many businesses are reopening and it leaves bar and club owners wondering how they will move forward.

"I have been here a long time," shares Ericks, "And I have had a lot of good days and now a lot of bad ones, and I don't know how much longer I am going to take the bad ones."

Ericks has spent 43 years serving and entertaining at his property Clyde's and Costellos. The popular college hotspot has been in the same location since 1977.

Ericks says he received a very small grant during the second wave of applications. Though the amount was not enough, "There is going to be like 30% of small businesses that will not be able to come back whether they are a bar or anything, they will not be able to come back because they did not get the help."

That grant money was not afforded to bars like Over Under: They had only been open 21 days before they had to close their doors, making them six days past the qualification for financial assistance.

But, they did find a way to move forward.

Operating partner Bob Arbuthnot says they changed their license to a restaurant, now serving brunch, lunch, and dinner.

"We always had food but it was 20% of our business, now it is about 65% of our business," he said.

The plan, Arbuthnot shares, is to go back to being a full time bar. But right now, they are doing what they need to, to stay open.

"So far it has allowed us to put people to work, and still be a presence and give people a place on the upstairs to at least relax a little bit," he said.

Also in the Capital City, bars like The Moon are thankful for the financial assistance that has been provided by all levels of government.

Owner and President, Scott Carswell, says they have been using the closure as an opportunity to renovate, redoing the floors, roof and stage. They have also managed to still host events, now presenting them online.

"I think we just have to hunker down and know at some point we will come back," Carswell said.

Carswell says his space can hold up to 2,000 people, and has two kitchens. He wants to keep his employees working, and has been looking into hosting small banquets, along with the virtual presentations.

But for places like Bullwinkles, the college hangout, has been collecting dust. Owner and President Steven Bailey wonders when the money the local and federal government has been granting him will dry out, "It only lasts so long, and the government can't keep giving us money."

Ericks furthers that 75% of the grant money goes to employees, which has been a tremendous help, but he says that only 25% goes to the building.

Ericks, Carswell, and Bailey own their buildings, but Ericks says he is concerned about the other mom and pops who lease, "If we are not open we are not going to be here."

Bailey says the economic hit has even affected his property value, and for those not as fortunate to own the property of their establishments, he says the little money they do receive is not enough.

Bailey and Ericks both cater to the college demographic, and with that, have furloughed some of their college employees.

On Tuesday, Ericks had four employees helping to clean the place; he says it is an opportunity to help pay them for something, since they cannot bar tend or do security.

With recent re-openings of restaurants, owners like Ericks feel frustrated.

"I mean executive order is an executive order, and you let them sell what I legally have a right to sell but you won't let me open," he said.

Bailey furthers, "I have a capacity of 479 I would be glad to have 25% capacity. Give me 10%. Give me something to start with."

While the high tops and dance floors remain empty, those like Carswell wait to hear the sounds of crowds, "Social distancing will have to take a rear view mirror before we were to get back to where we were again, because associating is the business we are in."

Clyde's and Costellos, The Moon, and Bullwinkles, are still closed to the public. Over Under is open because they are now operating as a restaurant.

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