By Ben Olson
Restaurants and bars in Sandpoint are facing a stark new reality under the new guidelines recently issued by the Trump administration to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. Trump announced March 16 that Americans should “avoid gatherings of 10 or more people” and “avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants and food courts” for the next two weeks.
As a result, local restaurateurs and bar owners have begun announcing how they will face this challenge. While some establishments may end up closing temporarily, quite a few have announced their plans to continue serving their customers in a manner to help curb the viral spread of coronavirus.
“We saw a pretty big slow down in business over the weekend, although some was likely due to the storm,” 219 Lounge owner Mel Dick told the Reader. “I would expect that business will continue to decline.”
Dick recently decided to cancel music at the 219 for the remainder of March, while acknowledging that a more sustained closure could take effect soon.
“I think we will have significant declines in sales and will likely close within a day or two,” he said. “There are numerous states that have required restaurants and bars to close. Take-out is not an option for us, nor is it really economical for most restaurants.”
Most of the larger-attendance events have been postponed at the Panida Theater, said Executive Director Patricia Walker.
“We have several rental events in April and May that are still in place,” Walker said. “A great deal of it will depend on the safe number to gather. At this time our movies are not near that level, and we have 500 seats for you to pick your level of social distancing.”
Walker said the Panida will continue with movie programming, as typical attendance falls below meeting thresholds, but she acknowledged the virus will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the theater.
“Sadly, this will greatly impact our community theater, as will the start of construction again,” she said, referring to the second phase of downtown street construction, which commenced March 16 and is scheduled to conclude in time for Lost in the ’50s.
Numerous community events have also canceled — some that were scheduled well into May. The Sandpoint Rotary Gala, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, announced it would postpone due to the virus. The Tour de Thrift tour of area thrift stores scheduled for March 21 also canceled. The East Bonner County Library District announced it would be closing its Sandpoint and Clark Fork branches “indefinitely,” as well as the Bookmobile effective 7 p.m. March 17. The Friends of the Library monthly book sales have also been canceled.
Some Sandpoint restaurants have instituted new take-out procedures to keep serving their customers during this life-changing series of events.
The Burger Dock in Sandpoint announced it would be offering curbside take-out only starting March 17 to help prioritize the health and wellbeing of its team and guests. The revised hours are Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Idaho Pour Authority announced March 16 it would be open for to-go sales only from Monday-Saturday from noon-6 p.m.
“We are canceling all events and music for the rest of the month, including Girls Pint Out, the Angels Over Sandpoint fundraiser and Pass The Torch Party,” owners Jon Hagadone and Vicki Reich announced in a newsletter March 16. To help mitigate the change, Idaho Pour Authority will offer 10% off mixed six-packs and $1 off all growler fills.
The Fat Pig restaurant has also begun offering curbside pickup at their restaurant. Owners Kelley and Brett Kennedy encourage their customers to call in a to-go order, after which they’ll get instructions on where to park so The Fat Pig staff can bring the food right to the waiting car.
“We still want to spoil our amazing customers while we all stay healthy!” the owners wrote in an Instagram post.
Pend d’Oreille Winery announced it would be offering to-go food and wine only during their open hours from noon-6 p.m., and that they have canceled all live music, trivia, piano and public events indefinitely.
Beet and Basil also plans to open only for take-out orders beginning March 18 for their hours from Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. They plan to update the menu daily at beetandbasil.net/menu.
Ivano’s Ristorante switched to a call-in / to-go orders only model starting immediately, with regular business hours remaining the same.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort announced that March 18 would be its last day of the 2019/2020 ski season.
“The issues we are all facing from the COVID-19 pandemic have proved challenging and for the safety of our guests and employees, we know that this is the best decision to limit the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable members of our community, both on and off the mountain,” Schweitzer CEO and president Tom Chasse said in a statement.
Idaho State Parks announced they have remained open for day use and camping, though any hands-on activities and large group events have been discontinued. Premium cabin rentals and picnic shelters have been closed.
The Bonner County History Museum is currently closed to the public, but is still “operational.”
MickDuff’s restaurant is currently still serving inside, but they have taken tables away from both the restaurant and Beer Hall to allow for adequate social distancing as recommended by the CDC. As of Wednesday, March 18 the Beer Hall still plans to have live music with Devon Wade from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Pack River Store owners Alex and Brittany Jacobson have instituted a heartwarming program to provide 100 free sack lunches on Fridays to kids in the community while the school district is closed. Anyone interested in donating to their mission can donate via PayPal at [email protected] Also, the Jacobsons encourage people to donate the Bonner Community Food Bank.
“Please continue to stay safe and support small businesses and restaurants during this scary time,” the Jacobsons wrote.
This is not a comprehensive list, as the coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every corner of our local economy.
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