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Money from the Cares Act has been distributed to many small businesses across the country. And while it has helped, some owners say it’s time to get back to work. Karina Mitchell recently spoke with Ben Huhman, owner of the Grand Cafe and High Rise bakery in Jefferson City Missouri. They’ve been delivery and pick-up only since March but will open their doors on Monday, as cautiously as they can.
Money from the CARES Act has been distributed to many small businesses across the country, and while it has helped, some owners say it's time to get back to work. I recently spoke with Ben Huhman, owner of the "Grand Cafe And High Rise Bakery" in Jefferson city, Missouri. They've been delivery and pick-up only since March but tomorrow will open their doors and get back to business, as cautiously as they can.
Ben, you own two restaurants in Jefferson City that have been closed since March. Explain to me what this pandemic has done to your business and the livelihoods of your staff.
Well, it's not been not been good for sure.
You know, I've laid a few a few people off in the very beginning. I've kept most of my main staff on. And with the help of the SBA loan that we got a few weeks ago, the PPP Act or Cares Act, whatever you gonna call it that that helped me kinda keep paying people and keep them off of unemployment and then kind of help me keep my doors open to keep doing enough to stay afloat for now.
The governor of your state says that he people can start reopening their businesses as early as Monday. I understand that you intend to open both of your restaurants then. What changes are you putting in place to keep everybody safe?
We are mandated, but we obviously want to keep the social distancing guidelines of six feet apart. So we've taken tables out of both dining rooms in order to to keep that space. The other guidelines were things like, you know, just limiting our capacity. We're probably looking at less than half of our capacity. We're gonna we're gonna try to put a few extra tables outside and then we're we will all be wearing protective equipment, masks and gloves while we're serving. You know, we're not gonna require patrons to come in with those on.
But we will be wearing those.
Ben if you could describe your town a little bit and the economic impact that's been felt there.
I don't know the exact population of our town. It's in that 30 to 40 thousand person range. I'm sorry, I don't know that number exactly. But it's a fairly small town. It is our state legislature town. It's our state capital so we do have we do have a bit of our population of an increase, this time of year when our legislative session is in. It's not been good. There are a few I know of a few people to do the same type of thing that I do that won't be reopening their doors. Some of them completely closed down. My businesses is I would say we've been doing twenty five percent of our normal revenues.
And when you do open your doors on Monday, what are you expecting to see? Do you expect customers to come in, sit down, order a meal and enjoy it by dining in?
We do. We've actually got some reservations. Honestly, people want to. People want to get out. They want to get back to normal. It's a little bit different in our small town. We haven't seen the number of cases that they have in places like New York or Seattle, places like that.
And how do your staff feel? Are they all coming back?
For the most part, everybody? My my main staff has been has been with me through the whole thing. We've been offering curbside and delivery and things like that. I guess everybody's a little apprehensive, but all that's really done is made us make sure that everybody is comfortable and that our that our employees are comfortable as well.
And why have you made the decision to open up on Monday? You don't have to. You could wait a little bit longer. Why now?
Well, it's some of it's it's kind of a necessity. We we can't sustain like this forever. In fact, I'd say we probably wouldn't want to try to do this very much longer. It's tough. You know, it's a tough decision. It's it's we we we don't take it lightly for sure. We we need to be open so that we can generate revenue so that we can pay our taxes, so that the state can turn around or pay taxes to the federal government I mean, that's how this that's how our economy works. We're we're kind of dipping our toe in and see where it takes us.
What do you say to critics that say you're just opening up too soon, you should wait longer?
Well, there is an argument there. There's an argument both ways. Our our little town, we're spread out as it is. And we don't, we just don't have, we don't have the number of cases around us. So it makes us feel a little bit more comfortable. And there is a there is a a want from the public. People are ready to get out and get somewhat back to normal.
Ben Huhman, thank you so much and good luck.
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