‘This is devastating’ Restaurant owners frustrated with new guidelines from governor

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 11:05 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - On Wednesday, Governor Andy Beshear announced new guidelines for restaurants and bar owners in Kentucky. Part of the mandates came with an order to close indoor dining rooms by Friday at 5 p.m. The news came as a surprise to restaurants across the state.

“I was completely shocked today (Wednesday) when we got the news our dining room would be closed for the first two weeks of our busiest month,” a public post from Hickory and Oak’s Facebook page said. “Know this. This one hurts. Bad. This is devastating to every restaurant and even worst every employee in those restaurants.”

The co-owner of Anna’s Greek restaurant, Vilson Qehaja, said he was ready to throw in the towel on Wednesday but his employees and customers helped him get through.

“They kept encouraging me that we need to stay open and we need to focus on doing to-go orders and do the best we can,” Qehaja said.

Qehaja said he had several reservations Thursday night as they prepared to have to close their dining room, as the community turned out to show their support.

“As soon as he said what he said (the governor) I started getting texts from customers that have been with me for 13 years plus, and they couldn’t believe it themselves,” Qehaja said.

The Facebook post from Hickory and Oak invited people to come to the restaurant Thursday night to show support before the shut-down.

“Come because my team deserves it. Our chefs work too hard to be told that their food is putting people at risk. Our servers and bartenders have responded by showing up to work when they could have stayed on unemployment. Everyone has worn masks. Everyone has socially distanced. Everyone’s hands are dry from the sanitizer,” the post said.

Vilson Qehaja feels his restaurant has followed all COVID-19 guidelines, even going beyond as his employees are required to get tested for the virus regularly. He said he has not reported a single case from his restaurant. Qehaja is mainly worried about his employees during this time.

“I have 28 people staffed and I have to think about their jobs. They need clothes, they need food, they need everything to pay their bills, so that hurts me more,” Qehaja said. “But I am very proud of my team and I am going to let them be there for my customers and handle the to-go orders.”

Qehaja said if you would like to support his staff, you can order Anna’s Greek Restaurant gift cards. You can order them online at 10% of gift card purchases will go to a fund set up for employees.

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