When word of the pandemic hit Vermillion in April, downtown businesses were forced to adapt to developing COVID-19 safety policies.
Café Brule and Dakota Brickhouse, which are co-owned by Jim Waters and Monica Iverson, immediately switched from in-house dining to delivery and curbside pick-up. Once the city allowed businesses to reopen, they resumed in-house dining.
Waters and Iverson said they introduced staff mask-wearing policies and installed hand sanitizer dispensers to the businesses — though tables are not spread six feet apart at Café Brule.
“We don’t have all of our tables totally spaced at Café Brule, but we do at the Brickhouse. We leave (distancing) up to the customers,” Waters said.
Iverson said customers who feel uncomfortable with Café Brule’s seating arrangements may ask staff to distance tables.
“If anybody wanted to come in and have an area that was isolated, they would just need to request that,” Iverson said. “We do prefer to do that at times when we wouldn’t have high capacity, like between noon and 1 on a weekday…it would be harder for us to vacate three tables, but we would do what we could to accommodate them.”
The businesses are also asking customers to wear masks when they arrive, though they may take off their masks to eat.
The Bean, another downtown coffeehouse, opted to close for several months before opening with limited hours in June. Martin Prendergast, co-owner of The Bean, said the closure was due to uncertainty at how the virus was transmitted.
“I was in here on March 12, and it was full. There was rumor then that the pandemic was taking effect and I just thought ‘we’re going to be a hot spot if we don’t do anything,’ so that day when we closed at 5 o’clock we just didn’t open up again,” Prendergast said.
Prendergast said the business set up an online ordering system and contactless payment options to protect the safety of the customers. In addition, baristas are required to wear masks, and only one employee works behind the counter at a time.
Employees are also required to take and record their temperatures every time they go to work.
Prendergast said employees are asked to be mindful of social distancing practices when they go out.
“We can’t force them to not go somewhere with some friends, but we ask that if they’re within six feet (of each other) to be masked,” Prendergast said.
While The Bean does not allow in-store seating, the business does share an outdoor seating area with R-Pizza called “The Bean Green.” The space is located in the parking spaces in front of the buildings.
Ally King, co-owner of R-Pizza, said the businesses set up the space with the help of the City of Vermillion and the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce.
“Lots of restaurants tried it out, and it really only worked well for us, so we’re keeping it for awhile longer,” Ally King said.
Brandon King, also co-owner of R-Pizza, said the business has been doing take-out and contactless delivery since April, when they stopped in-house dining.
Brandon King said that as the pandemic progresses, he plans to start selling groceries, sauces, deli items and cleaning supplies at R-Pizza.
“Instead of thinking of going back to normal, we’re thinking of going forward to something totally different,” Brandon King said. “We may someday have some indoor dining again, but it just seems like it’s not going away any time soon.”
While each business has a different safety policy, all four said they are adapting to the pandemic one day at a time.