Southern Illinois restaurants keep hope alive by finding new ways to stay afloat

Updated: May. 18, 2020 at 11:13 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Il. (KFVS) -The coronavirus pandemic has impacted small businesses across the country, especially in the restaurant industry.

Multiple Heartland restaurants are looking toward the light at the end of the tunnel in hopes of reviving their business.

A Chinese restaurant in Carbondale, New Kahala, sits right near the Southern Illinois University campus.

Restaurant manager William Lo said trial and error is a part of the new business model.

“It’s tough, you know, you gotta figure out what works best for your business,” he said.

Call after call, customer after customer, the people of New Kahala stayed busy on Monday afternoon.

Patrons called in every minute.

Due to the pandemic, Lo said they had to do the unthinkable - shut their doors.

“When this first happened, we closed. We closed for a week and a half, almost two weeks to let everything blow over,” he said.

The restaurant owners are the parents of Lo.

They’ve been running this business for decades.

Despite the changes and new rules with COVID-19, Lo said the business is starting to pick back up.

At the front front door, the sign reads “Lobby closed”, so patrons need to call in their order and wait curbside.

“We have a small dining room to begin with," Lo said. “We are in gear for take out. We’ve got a phone system that lets us answer multiple calls at the same time. We’ve got a point of sale, we’ve got the system set up, so it’s very easy for us ramp up,” he said.

While some businesses within Southern Illinois are open for curbside like New Kahala or Thai Taste, some are closed and hoping to open soon.

Underground Public House remains closed, and, owner Josh Klarer said being closed for almost two months is unsettling.

“Very scary," he described. "We were, you know, definitely at the beginning wondering if we were going to be able to open the doors back up depending on how long this is going to go.”

Illinois is slated to potentially open back up June 1st, and Klarer said he hopes his business can, too.

“Within like two weeks we can open back up, we’ve just been trying to be really calculated on a reopen,” Klarer said.

Underground plans to sell their signature PBR burgers and beer to-go, to maintain social distancing.

According Klarer, during this time of closure, Underground is completing sanitary upgrades and cleaning .

When this is all over, Lo said he hopes everyone will eat local and restaurants will continue to stick together.

“The old saying rising tide raises all ships, so i think it’s important that we help each other out and grow as a community,” Lo said.

President Trump met with leader of the restaurant industry Monday afternoon.

The round-table discussion allowed restaurant executives to talk directly to the president and his administration about the challenges the industry is facing.

According to the Department of Commerce, sales at restaurants in the united states dropped 30 percent in the month of march.

For more information about food options during these mandated closure, visit the Southern Illinois Eats Facebook Page.

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