Restaurant owners worried new SCHD directive will drive away customers

Restaurant owners are worried that the new SCHD directive, that will go into effect Monday, will drive away customers.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With the weather getting colder, many customers are too concerned to eat indoors, and with a new, more restrictive health directive on the way, one restaurant manager says she’s extremely worried.

On Monday, Shelby County Health Directive 15 goes into effect.

Any business that serves food or alcohol is required to:

  • Limit capacity to 50%
  • Close at 10 p.m.
  • Have customers always wear masks except when taking a bite of food or drinking
  • Limit groups dining together to six people, with no more than four adults.

“I understand why it’s happening, I just wish it would all go away, I wish we could go back to our normal lives,” Sallie Jewell, manager of Salt Water Crab restaurant, said.

The owner of the sushi and seafood restaurant in Overton Square says business has been struggling.

They’re only bringing in about half of the customers they saw in the summer months, and she’s concerned more restrictions and rising case numbers will scare away even more customers.

“It’s been really hard. We’ve been struggling as a restaurant, as employees. It’s just been tough and tight,” Jewell said.

Jewell also says she doesn’t know how her servers are supposed to enforce customers wearing masks while not eating or drinking.

“It’s going to be hard because what are we supposed to tell the table ‘hey you need to put on your mask or you need to leave’? That’s hurting us still, we’re losing out on customers and guests,” she said.

“The health department is in a very awkward and difficult situation from where I see it. They are watching these cases spiral upward locally, regionally, nationally. And that’s going to translate into increased deaths, it just is,” Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Healthcare, said.

Threlkeld says with the drastic increase in COVID-19 cases in Shelby County, including a record-high 835 cases on Tuesday, action was necessary.

The health department has said repeatedly in their briefings they do not want to close businesses or harm the economy if it can be avoided.

“But legislating exactly how to do that is at best extremely complicated. And it’s unpopular in a lot of circles,” Threlkeld said.

Threlkeld has repeatedly said Thanksgiving is a major turning point. He urges everyone to follow health protocols and not gather in large groups.

“We’re facing a lot of danger through the holidays. The Thanksgiving holiday may put us into numbers of cases that might demand more restrictions because we may just see numbers nobody’s ever seen before, it’s certainly possible,” Threlkeld continued.

Jewell and the Salt Water Crab staff are worried that if business doesn’t get better in the coming week and months, they may be forced to close permanently.

“Yeah... we want it to get better,” Jewell said.

The health directive also strongly encourages all school-related contact sports to be suspended and requires everyone inside a gym to wear a mask at all times.

The directive also provides financial support of at least $5,000 to any business that must close for 30 days because of the directive, they say they will soon be releasing more information about that financial support.

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