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Every table was full at Aquamarine Cafe for the lunch rush Wednesday, as customers scarfed down their last sit-down meals in the restaurant before the state-mandated deadline to close dine-in service at bars and restaurants to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Governor Mike Dunleavy’s health mandate, announced Tuesday, required bars, breweries and restaurants to end dine-in service starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. and lasting until April 1. However, take-out dining is still allowed.
“We are still going to be open for take-out,” said Aquamarine waiter Angelo Macheras, adding that the restaurant has already been busy with to-go orders.
Macheras attributed the unexpected crowd on Wednesday to the early closure of Henry’s Great Alaskan Restaurant, located next door.
Henry’s Great Alaskan restaurant closed Wednesday before 5 p.m. and will not offer to-go orders because “we don’t do large-volume to-go business,” said Raymond Legrue, Henry’s owner. “I don’t have enough phones for people to call in their orders.”
Before the COVID-19 crisis, he said had already seen a downturn in businesses because of Kodiak’s snowy winter.
“This winter shut the town down,” Legrue said. “Our sales have been down 20% before the virus.”
Prior to the mandate, the Kodiak Island Brewing Company had already reduced their daily hours to 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and had also implemented beer-to-go offers, but there were few takers in the lead up to the shutdown. Owner Ben Millstein said that if the lack of interest continued after the end of dine-in service, there would be no reason for the brewery to stay open.
“I’ll give it a week and see if people make that adjustment,” Millstein said. “Meanwhile, we are down to a skeleton crew, so people are staying at home with their families and worried about income.”
Many restaurant and bar employees who receive hourly salaries will go without pay during the next two weeks. “We are all concerned,” said Sadine Tolle, an employee at Tony’s Bar. “We will see how it plays out and hopefully collect unemployment.”
One waiter who will go without a paycheck for the next two weeks is Nation Sega, who is employed by King’s Diner.
While he is not worried about himself because he lives with siblings who have other jobs, and also has a generous landlord, Sega said he realizes he is lucky.
“Especially if you have kids. I can see if you have kids, it’s going to be a lot different. I am lucky enough that I take care of myself and I have my younger brother and sister,” Sega said, adding that despite the lack of pay, he remains hopeful that the community will come together.
Although hair salons were not included in the state mandate, some are being proactive about stopping the spread of the virus in the community.
Terri Pruitt, who has run Vizhunz Salon for 16 years, said it was difficult to screen clients who had been out of the state within the past two weeks or clients who didn’t feel well. She has therefore decided to close the business until March 30.
“We cannot stay 6 feet away from our clients,” she said. “I feel that it’s the right thing to do in light of everything.”
“I’m seriously worried about the business, the stylists and what’s going to happen to them,” Pruitt said.
“It’s scary when you have your income taken away for an undetermined amount of time,” said Valene Wilde, who works as a stylist at Vizhunz Salon. “You have savings, but we don’t know how long this will last.”