Memphis restaurant owners hold off on capacity changes after announcement of health directive

Memphis restaurant owner will not expand capacity with new directive
Memphis restaurant owner will not expand capacity with new directive
Updated: Jan. 20, 2021 at 10:46 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As Shelby County restaurants prepare for another shift in capacity restrictions with the latest health directive, not all owners plan to invite more customers into their dining rooms.

Beginning Saturday the Shelby County Health Department is allowing restaurants, bars and clubs to move from 25% capacity to 50% capacity. But one business owner tells us they are not going to change how they operate.

“Right now we’re doing the take out and delivery. It’s working. We’ve got a flow going with that,” said Ben Smith Tsunami Owner and Chef.

Smith says it is too difficult to quickly maneuver the many directives from the Shelby County Health Department concerning how restaurants can operate.

“Every time we open up the dining because of staff, we have to drop the delivery aspect of it,” he said. “We still do take out. Delivery has built up a pretty good following.”

Swimming in the sea of COVID-19 restrictions has made restaurants resourceful but it’s not perfect and certainly not as lucrative as indoor dining at 100% capacity.

Smith says when changes are made a staff member has to spend time on social media updating the website to let customers know.

Kelly English the owner and chef of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line told WMC he may move to 50% capacity at the end of the month saying it is just too difficult to make changes immediately.

Mike Miller, head of the Memphis Restaurant Association understands.

“An opportunity to get back to normal that restaurants are going to just flip a switch and go from losing money to making a profit, no probably not but it allows them to start paying bills,” said Miller.

The businesses still have to close at 10 p.m., keep tables six feet apart and no groups larger than six.

Patrons will still have to wear masks unless they are eating or drinking.

“It becomes really really challenging,” said Smith.

Live music will also be allowed beginning Saturday. But performers must 18 feet from the audience.

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