Seaside Bar and Grille was full of people celebrating the new restaurant’s opening on St. Patrick’s Day. Then employees heard about a new state directive — all bars would close, and dining room capacity would be cut in half.
Owner Marc Devisse spent months planning, renovating and hiring staff just to close eight hours after opening. He knew the risks but decided to open for the Irish celebration, he said.
“We were expecting (a state directive about restaurants), but not on St. Patrick’s Day,” Devisse said. “We were busier than we expected, then by 8 p.m., we had to shut down. We stayed closed for five days, then decided to try the takeout and grocery thing.”
Seaside crafted a takeout menu and now offers a grocery service as an alternative to navigating the aisles of a busy store. It also provided free pizzas to local hospitals.
Five people are running the restaurant — the 25 employees that were hand-picked for the job are no longer working, said Crystal Hamblen, executive assistant at Seaside.
“We had just finished hiring,” Hamblen said. “It broke our hearts to say we were closing. We let them know we want them to come back.”
Despite the small staff and takeout services, the restaurant is on shaky ground. The orders aren’t large enough to break even, and there is a chance it will close until the COVID-19 closure orders are lifted, Devisse said.
“It’s very borderline,” he said. “We’re giving it a few weeks. If things don’t get better, I’m going to have to make a tough decision.”
The restaurant will reopen regardless of temporary closures, Devisse said. He owns Tri Town Construction, which is still working. But new projects are hard to find, and business will drop.
Devisse’s construction business applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, though he hasn’t gotten any funds.
Seaside Bar and Grille isn’t as lucky — the government is asking for a year’s worth of payroll information. A restaurant opened for eight hours cannot apply.
Devisse said any traction leading to the St. Patrick’s Day opening should remain after reopening. The restaurant’s Facebook page has more than 1,400 followers. However, being open for one day didn’t allow for a strong customer base.
“We created a lot of excitement leading up to the opening, but no one had time to try the food,” owner Marc Devisse said. “You can’t start a following in eight hours.”
Thaddeus Mast is a south Lee County reporter for the Naples Daily News and The Banner. Support his work by subscribing to our local news organization. Find him on Twitter as @thaddeusmast.
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