Restaurant owners anxious to return to normal

    Three Rivers Publishing reached out to numerous restaurant owners in the area to see how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses. This is the third and final week we are publishing their responses.

    Belmont Vineyards, which is located east of Cuba on Historic Route 66 about a mile west of the Leasburg Interstate 44 exit, closed as of March 14 based on the Centers for Disease Control guidelines at the time.
    “We also had large parties cancel that coming weekend,” said owner Jeff Voss, who says the winery will reopen when it is safe to do so.
    Since Belmont was coming out of the winter months, when its business is typically slower, the decision to close had minimal impact on the staff. Voss said he typically has about eight employees, who are mostly part-timers, but wound up with just two working part-time during the closure. When the winery closed, Belmont provided food for them if they needed it.
    “The staff is in okay shape,” said Voss, “but like most people they will not be able to live off of unemployment for an extended period of time. I have been approved for a PPP loan, so I will be bringing back most quickly.”
    Voss estimates he lost about 20 percent of his business as of mid-April, but said the longer he remains closed, especially as the weather gets better, the higher that loss is going to become.
    “I’m not happy, but what am I going to do?” Voss said. “There will be a silver lining with this event as we all struggle to make ends meet. Most daily lives are figuring out how to pay bills and shop safely. Everyone I run into seems to be happy and more polite. Maybe the slowdown in activity has made us reevaluate our lives.”
    Voss said, during the closure, Belmont has teamed up with Meramec Vineyards in St. James to make hand sanitizer (see related story) until he can reopen.
    “Our music lineup is set and ready to go,” Voss said. “We have canceled through April, but all musicians are ready to get back in the saddle.”

    Subway of Mid-Missouri operates Subway restaurants throughout the region, including the ones in Cuba, St. James, and Steelville. They have remained open with no eat-in dining.
    Subways in all three towns are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and are only offering carryout service. They do have an app that customers can use to order so they don’t have to wait to order in the stores, which are still offering a full menu.
    Subway has managed to retain most of its employees, although a few have chosen to self-quarantine during the current shelter-in-place orders. As of mid-April, the stores hadn’t had to layoff anyone, despite the fact that sales were down about 50 percent. All the locally owned Subways are offering a 50 percent discount to any health care providers that are working on the front lines of the pandemic if they can show their work badge.
    The Cuba Subway is actually taking advantage of the business slowdown to do a remodel and plans to have a grand reopening once they are fully back in business. Plans are also in the works for a remodel in St. James.

    Just a Taste in St. James has remained open during the state-wide stay at home order, but has modified its business practices to continue serving while protecting staff.
    “Currently, we are open for curbside pick-up on Fridays and Saturdays,” Britt Giger, Creative Director, said. “To best protect our staff and ensure timely service, we ask that all orders be submitted online by 9 p.m. on Thursdays.”
    Safety of employees and providing a contactless experience has been the focus and Giger said the business is adapting to the current crisis while continuing to serve the community. “Our hours of operation and current offerings were created with our team’s health in mind. At this time, we are only offering wine and beverages to ensure our staff can work safely with limited contact between one another. Our kitchen is temporarily closed to ensure our culinary team can best social distance.”
    “At this time, our online order tips are donated directly to our incredible team of servers. We are also passionate about continuing their wine education and ensuring their bellies are full, so meals and beverages are donated weekly,” Giger said. “Our team also coordinates virtual wine tastings so we can check-in on one another and create a space for education and laughter.”
    Plans are to reopen once the state allows and Just a Taste is developing a plan to open safely when the time is right. “We plan on returning to business as usual as soon as it is safe to do so. However, the health of our team and community members is our number one priority. If operating under online orders for the next two months means we can successfully and safely open again for the remainder of 2020, we are happy to do so,” Giger said.
    “We cannot thank our club members, customers, social media friends, and community members enough for their incredible support as we navigate our way through this pandemic. Their patience and engagement and positive reviews mean the world to us,” Giger added.
    Customers wanting to place an order can do so at to see the offerings and to schedule a pick up.

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