Arnie’s owner, GM says it’s ‘pretty dire straits’ for local restaurants
Will the governor’s newest reopening plan be the final nail in the coffin for many local restaurants? The Washington Hospitality Association calls the plan a roadmap to a near complete collapse of Main Street, neighborhood restaurants.
Steve Price, general manager and owner of Arnie’s Restaurant in Mukilteo, says the new plan was “disappointing news for the industry.”
“I understand the safety concerns, and it’s been very, very difficult,” Price said. “We’ve been off and on closed since March. We started off with about 300 plus employees, and we’re probably down to about 50. So it’s been a very difficult road.”
At this point, the problem for restaurants, Price explained, is that if they were lucky enough to receive any PPP money, which Price referred to as a “lifeline that kept a lot of us alive,” is now running out.
“So it’s pretty dire straits,” he said. “The other biggest concern is we don’t know how to plan for the future. We don’t know when we’ll be allowed to reopen. The criteria, the four sets of criteria that have to be met by Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties, because that’s the region we’re in, seems really, really steep. And so closure seems likely until March or even later.”
In a recent post on social media, Arnie’s pleaded with their loyal customers, basically saying that we’re all underestimating the number of restaurants that are on the brink of closing. The general manage and owner asked that if you can afford to, get takeout, buy gift cards, and support your favorite places. When restaurants close, the comments on the posts are always full of people saying things like, “if I had known my favorite spot was in trouble, I would have ordered more.”
Until Arnie’s can reopen, Price says they’re trying to be as creative as they can be.
“We had obviously a lot of excess capacity because the restaurants have been closed. We have very large restaurants. We have large kitchens, large staffs. We went into the the take out business out of necessity,” he said. “And in that necessity was born what we call a virtual kitchen. It’s our Chk-A-Boom concept. It’s a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich and grilled chicken sandwiches.”
The challenge for Arnie’s has been that they’re run a sit-down, view restaurant model that brings people from all over, but people don’t travel as far for takeout.
“So trying to survive on just an Arnie’s concept for takeout was very difficult because we draw from the immediate area, right from Edmonds, right from Mukilteo,” Price said.
Between Arnie’s and Chk-A-Boom, he says they’re sometimes reaching 20% of normal sales, which Price says is not survivable. With the eventual allowance of 25% indoor capacity, he says it could be even worse.
“The 25% requires you to bring on the help that you need to service,” he said. “We need to bring on the front desk, we need to bring on the bartenders, the bussers, et cetera, but at 25% that’s not going to pay for the labor.”
That said, they will open at 25% when they are allowed to do so, but it will be difficult financially.
“At 50%, which is what we had over the summer, and with the deals that we made with the banks and the landlords and all that, we were able to not lose money. We didn’t make a dime, but we were able not to lose money at 50%,” Price said. “So the 25% is going to be very difficult.”
For now, Price asks the community to support takeout at Arnie’s, Chk-A-Boom, and anywhere they can in order to bridge the gap until people can return to the restaurant for in-person dining.
“We’ve been been in business for almost 45 years now. We’ve been a multigenerational location. We know people that we knew the grandmothers when they were kids, and the grandkids now. So we’re very family oriented, and we know a lot of people in the community,” he said. “The other thing is, is restaurants provide an engine, an economic engine to those communities. People move into communities because of restaurants, they like to talk about restaurants, they love the pictures and all that kind of stuff. So it’s very, very good for the community.”
“Please, even if it isn’t Arnie’s, support your local restaurants,” he added.
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