Dane County restaurant’s closing possible harbinger of things to come

OREGON (WKOW) -- The imminent closing of a popular Dane County restaurant aligns with recent survey data showing many restauranteurs are considering closing if the business environment does not change.

Chef Dave Heide of Charlie's on Main in Oregon says he'll close doors next month after five years in business. Heide's restaurant has been doing exclusively curbside business since March to protect employees and customers. Heide says revenue is just 10 percent of revenue during normal operations.

He also says the failure of Congress to finalize another round of financial assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program contributed to the decision to close.

Heide also issues a warning.

"I'm not the only person who is going to be going out," Heide says. "There's a ton of people who are in the process of trying to figure out what closing looks like," he says.

Survey results from the polling of restauranteurs across Wisconsin earlier this month appear to be bolster Heide's claim.

"At least one-third of restaurants across the state of Wisconsin are saying they will not be in business six months from now if either business conditions don't change or if we don't see another round of PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) or some other types of relief from the federal government," Wisconsin Restaurant Association Executive Vice President Susan Quam says.

The survey commissioned by the association also found more than two-thirds of respondents said they expected slumping revenues to remain six months out.

Quam says the restaurant industry has immediate concerns as well. "The biggest concern we have is when winter comes," she says.

Quam says the cost of weather-proofing outdoor dining space to cope with wind chill and snow is prohibitive when viewed with expected revenue from such dining. She says restauranteurs are instead building on indoor space that's already been reconfigured to allow for social distancing.

"Trying to extend their space if they happen to have any empty space next door to them, possibly extend into any empty storefronts," she says. "The plexiglass between booths, if that is something that can be erected."

Heide demonstrates the determination and flexibility required of restauranteurs to cope with the economic and environmental challenges. While closing his Oregon eatery, he'll continue to operate his longer-established, Fitchburg restaurant specializing in Cajun cuisine. Heide also plans to use grocery excess to launch a non-profit, low-cost community hub of takeout food.

Heide says diners can be part of the solution as the industry braces for a lengthier experience of coping with the impact of COVID-19. "Pick the three restaurants - not even 10 or 20 - just pick the three restaurants you want to be here in the next year," Heide says. "And just go out and support them."

More at WKOW 27 News

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