KC extends business hours for restaurants and bars





“These are folks we’re trying to protect and care for”





David Lopez, General Manager of Manny Mexican Restaurant, said, “We are really receptive to (the mayor’s announcement of extended restaurant hours). Before that, we had just been rolling with a 10 p.m. closure.”



BY JOE ARCE AND COREY CRABLE


Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ recent announcement allowing local bars and restaurants to keep their doors open until midnight is welcome news for a beleaguered industry, but at least one local restaurant owner says Kansas City eateries still have a long way to go to come back financially from the effects of COVID-19.


General Manager, David Lopez, of Manny’s Mexican Restaurant, and who also serves as president of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association told Hispanic News, “The mayor’s announcement is welcome news to restaurant owners in the city,” and he encourages restaurant owners and managers to keep the safety of their customers and employees in mind, too.


“We are really receptive to (the mayor’s announcement of extended restaurant hours). Before that, we had just been rolling with a 10 p.m. closure,” Lopez notes. “You have to be really careful when talking about public health and people’s lives. … The most difficult part about (operating during the pandemic) is that we have to do all we can to be competitive in this market in keeping our lights on, keeping the doors open, and allowing our employees to take care of their families.”


The news is especially welcome after a calendar year that saw an estimated 15 percent of local restaurants close.


“Our industry has been kicked in the teeth. It’s been an awful, awful year,” Lopez says. “For us to have this midnight closure is definitely a step in the right direction.”


More local restaurant owners appear to be optimistic heading into 2021 as well. According to a recent survey conducted by the Greater Kansas City Area Chamber of Commerce, 64 percent of business owners surveyed indicated that they are “very confident” that their business would fully recover from the pandemic and its accompanying economic effects, while 31 percent said they are “somewhat confident.” Only four percent indicated they were “not very confident,” and a paltry one percent indicated they were “not at all confident.”


“By nature, entrepreneurs and small business owners are problem solvers — they rise to a challenge — and 2020 certainly doled out more than its fair share,” says Maria Meyers, Executive Director of the UMKC Innovation Center and Founder of SourceLink, which assisted with the survey.


Lopez says he is very confident that recovery for restaurants is possible through good communication with city officials, keeping expenses as low as possible, and ensuring the safety of human resources – their employees.


Assistance from the federal government in the form of PPP loans for small businesses, as well as a deferment of certain fees for businesses that bring in less than $2 million per year, is most welcome for small businesses, Lopez says, because despite restaurants’ doors being closed to customers, the bills just don’t stop coming.


“We do suffer. Our bills don’t stop. We still have to keep our lights on, pay credit card processing fees, keep groceries coming in our back door. We still have to pay those bills,” Lopez says, adding that most restaurants have lost between 65 and 70 percent of their sales since last March. “You cannot go backwards. How do you get that back? We see the federal government finally starting to respond with a second round of PPP loans. It’s been hard for us to wade through this without help from the federal government.”


Communication with government at the local and state levels has been a lifeline for many restaurant owners, too, Lopez adds. But it’s the restaurant owners and employees of color who have been hit the hardest.


“All of these city officials have done the best they can when measuring the economic impact of this pandemic,” he says. “But it’s the brown and black community really getting hammered by this pandemic. It’s also about people’s lives. It’s been really sad. People who wash our dishes, who serve our food, who take care of our customers – these are folks we’re trying to protect and care for as well. We’re trying to form an alliance in a spirit of unity regardless of race, gender or what you believe in. We’re all Kansas Citians. My father Manny Lopez felt this way, I feel this way. We’ve got to rally together to try and get past this moment.”


Lopez says he encourages restaurant owners and even employees to get involved in the restaurant association. Such involvement will provide invaluable resources and support to help them weather the storm of the pandemic and its many effects.


“Small restaurants (should) get involved with our association, get as much information as you can,” Lopez says. “We have to do as much good as we can, and that includes protecting customers by following CDC guidelines. It’s every small business owner’s responsibility to care for the people who walk through our doors, and to care for our customers.”


With those support systems in place, Lopez says, he feels the industry can come back stronger than ever before. It’s an industry that is adaptable and resilient.


“No industry can bounce back faster than the restaurant industry,” he says. “We can bring people in immediately and bring in jobs. We can get our community back rolling, welcoming, caring for people, giving them this normalcy that they are craving right now. That includes hiring and getting people back to work.”


In the meantime, Lopez says he and small business owners throughout the metro area can survive the pandemic if they just band together, do what is best for their employees and customers, and work with local officials every step along the way.


“I commend Mayor Lucas, I commend City Hall, but there’s still work to do,” Lopez says, “and we still have decisions we can make that can absolutely impact our industry, and we have to do it together.”


For more information about the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, visit www.morestaurants.org/greater-kansas-city.html.


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Updated COVID019 safety guidelines for local businesses from the Office of Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas:


• Restaurants, taverns, bars, and all other venues, including wedding and other event spaces, shall close at midnight, require social distancing between different parties, and limit the number of occupants indoors to no more than 50 percent of building occupancy.


• Indoor and outdoor patrons at these facilities must be seated, and also masked at all times except when actively eating or drinking. Indoor and outdoor parties are limited to a maximum of 10 people and parties shall be spaced with no less than six feet of distance between themselves and individuals from any other parties.


• Restaurants, taverns, and bars must immediately report known COVID-19 cases to the Kansas City Health Department.


• Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 persons maximum.


• Masks must be worn in all indoor spaces with more than one person per room, and outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained.