Henry’s and Campagnolo were one step ahead when the coronavirus pandemic caused the City of Atlanta to shut down restaurants in March. Owner Maureen Kalmanson closed the popular Midtown eateries 10 days before the order.
“I was concerned for health reasons and also concerned about my staff being able to get unemployment,” Kalmanson (photo) told Project Q Atlanta. “If we waited until everybody closed, they would be in the middle of all that mess.”
The restaurants initially offered takeout, then Kalmanson shut down Henry’s completely and ran orders for both eateries through Campagnolo. The restaurants reopened in June for dine-in service, minus several tables to allow social distancing.
These days, temperatures are checked at the door, and customers must wear masks when not seated.
“If they’re unhappy with that, then they can leave,” Kalmanson said. “This is how we want to take care of our community and our employees.”
“You don’t plan for something like this. You don’t quite know what’s best, but I feel like I’d rather err on the side of caution than otherwise,” she added. “We have no playbook.”
Customers and staff reacted positively to the policy changes, Kalmanson said. The restaurants avoided catastrophic hits to the bottom line with help from federal Payment Protection Program loans from the Small Business Administration.
“Fortunately, we’re in fairly good shape,” she said. “I try to stay a little bit ahead because I always worry.”
Kalmanson said that the state reopened too soon, causing COVID-19 cases to spike during summer.
“I don’t trust currently anything that’s being said about when things might get back to some semblance of normal, unless we get a little tougher on how we’re managing the crisis,” she said. “They put many, many small businesses at risk, and I worry what would happen if many of these small businesses don’t come back.”
In the meantime, Kalmanson’s working to protect the staff and customers at Henry’s and Campagnolo.
“We just can do what we can do and do it every day and try and make sure we’re being as thrifty as possible and making changes that will hopefully keep us afloat and take care of our guests as best we can,” she said.
This story is made possible by a grant from Facebook Journalism Project’s COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.
Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood