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Bloomington businesses prepare to open during COVID-19 pandemic



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Signs on the front doors inform customers about visiting rules May 12 at the Book Corner. Some retail businesses and restaurants are preparing to reopen at 50% capacity Friday, while others are planning on remaining closed until they are able to reopen closer to full capacity. Alex Deryn

Many Monroe County businesses will be able to open this Friday after the county's extended stay-at-home order ends May 15. Stage 2 of Gov. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s five-step plan to reopen the economy amid the pandemic will begin 11 days after most of the state. 

Some businesses are eager to continue business, while others are waiting for the ability to open up at a larger capacity.

Ed Schwartzman, co-owner of BuffaLouie’s at the Gables, said he and his staff aim to open Saturday. Retail businesses and restaurants are allowed to open at 50% capacity Friday.

“We’re chomping at the bit to get going again,” he said.

To encourage social distancing, every other table will be roped off, and signs will be put up to remind customers, Schwartzman said. He said he also thinks customers will monitor themselves.

“Between us and the good practices of our customers, I think we will be fine,” he said.

Schwartzman said all his staff will wear masks and gloves. If they tell him they don’t feel well, he sends them home for two weeks. He said no one on his staff has contracted COVID-19.

Randy Sciscoe, owner of Mary M’s Walnut House Flowers and Gifts, said his business will open after the stay-at-home order ends. The business offers no-contact, curbside delivery, but Sciscoe said it is not the usual amount of business. He said he is ready to open because they did not sell as many flowers as usual last weekend for Mother’s Day.

He said the store has a new ultraviolet air purification system, and staff interacting with customers will wear masks. He said he is not really concerned about social distancing because he said most orders are over the phone. He said the store does not have a lot of people inside at the same time unless it’s a holiday such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.

“There’s a limit as to what you can do,” Sciscoe said. “It’s imperative that Bloomington businesses get reopened because if not, we’re going to lose a ton of businesses.”

For restaurants such as Lennie’s and Hive, it will be a little later. Jeff Mease, co-founder of Hive, Lennie’s and Pizza X, said Hive will likely open in June, and Lennie’s will likely open in July. Mease said Lennie’s doesn't do a significant amount of carry-out or delivery because it’s mostly a dine-in restaurant.

“We feel like if we open that too early, we’re just kind of fighting the current,” Mease said. "We feel like until people are ready to go out to a busy restaurant, at least most people, that we’re better off staying closed.”

He said opening Lennie’s and Hive at 50% capacity now would be difficult. He said his staff would be better off with unemployment money because they might not make enough, including tips, at a dine-in restaurant at 50% capacity.

“We could easily just run at a loss if we open at 50%,” he said.

Mease said he plans to open Hive in June because he will be able to offer some delivery options, and it is a larger space that is easier to socially distance in. To encourage social distancing at Lennie’s, they will separate tables. He said his staff at Pizza X wears masks right now to protect customers.

Lennie’s and Hive can afford to be closed because there is revenue coming from Pizza X, which is still offering delivery and carry-out, Mease said. He said he is worried that other Bloomington businesses cannot handle being closed so long.

“We just do what we can, but we can’t stay home and watch the world end,” he said.

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