Thousands of Connecticut Businesses About to Go Dark

Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered movie theaters, gyms, casinos, restaurants, and bars to close at 8 p.m. Monday with the exception of take-out.

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Not knowing of the decision the governor was going to make two days later, on Saturday, the owners of Joey Garlic’s Restaurant and Pizzaria turned half of their Newington parking lot into curbside pickup so people could get their food to go.

Monday morning, the governor ordered all restaurants and bars to close indefinitely after 8 p.m., with the exception of take-out.

For restaurants that rely heavily on dine-in customers for their bottom lines, big changes are on the way.

 “Over the weekend, our sales were probably half of what they normally are,” said Anthony Sullo, the co-owner of Joey Garlic’s three locations.

Sullo hoped the take-out orders will help buffer the business he stands to lose when his dining room closes Monday night.  However,  he said layoffs also seems certain.

“We will not be able to keep everyone,” he explained.  “Some people are volunteering to get laid off.  We’re going to try to prioritize who really needs to work and who wants to work and who feels safe working.”

Other restaurants wrestled with the decision of whether to shut down completely.

“This is something new for us.  This is something that kind of was difficult to figure out what we want to do,” said Emmanuel Gavrilis, Manager of Olympia Diner in Newington.

After what  Gavrilis called a “heated discussion,” the diner decided to try take-out.  It’s their only option to stay open since the governor banned all dine-in.

“I’m already thinking about the bills I have to pay at the end of the month,” said Elleni Gabrilis, who has worked as a waitress at Olympia for eight years.

The move will keep Gabrilis employed, but she’s worried she won’t survive on take-out tips.

“If people are generous enough, I feel like maybe.  I’m hoping it doesn’t last for too long though,” said Gabrilis.

“Car payments, rent, it’s pretty much going to take a toll,” added Rochelle Ayala, another Olympia waitress.

Roofing contractor Danny Young spends most of his work day away from the office and usually buys his breakfast and lunch.

“All day long we look for food on the road,” said Young.

He said he believes the extra precautions ordered by the governor are necessary to getting coronavirus under control.

“I noticed it when I walked in I didn’t want to open the door.  I think we’re all getting a little paranoid about what we touch,” he said.

A regular at Olympia Diner disagreed.

“I’m shocked.  I’m really shocked,” said John Nappi of Berlin. “I don’t know what people are going to do.  It’s going to be devastating.  Especially small businesses like this.”

Olympia will stop serving at the 8 p.m. deadline, four hours earlier than normal. Gavrilis expects the revenue loss to be “huge.”

“We’re open later than normal restaurants, that’s usually a good time for us but with everything that’s been going on deciding to shut that down was kind of hard to do but it’s for the best,” said Gavrilis.

Gavrilis said they've quadrupled their order for all take-out containers, boxes, and plastic silverware. The restaurant will use its Facebook page to update customers on its status.

Gyms and movie theaters were also ordered to close during a tri-state announcement with the governors of New York and New Jersey.  Lamont noted that the coronavirus knows no borders.

“I kind of had a feeling this was coming," Tim Gardner of Wethersfield said. “It’s an adjustment for everybody but it’s the right

thing to do,” said Tim Gardner of Wethersfield, before entering his local gym for the last time for the foreseeable future.

Jack Banks, co-owner of the Powerhouse gyms in Berlin and Farmington, said he was caught by surprise when he heard on the news that he’d have to shut his doors indefinitely.

“At first I thought it was a little bit draconian and I thought it was something maybe a little overreaction,” said Banks. “We have to listen.  I mean we’re not the experts.”

Banks said it’s too early to tell what impact the closure will have on his 39-year-old business.

“This is really unprecedented here,” he explained. “This is a business that relies on day-to-day activity in the cash register.”

Banks plans on continuing to pay his 80 employees.  However, he said the crisis is putting a lot of weight on his shoulders.

“The bottom line for us, it’s stressful.  We have mortgages and taxes and we don’t want to stop payroll because we do want to pay our employees.  The entire stress of the situation is worrisome,” Banks said.

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