DeKalb businesses adjust to Phase 4

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Patrick Murphy

Pho N’ Grill, 913 S. Annie Glidden Road, offers carryout and delivery options.

Kierra Frazier, Reporter

DeKALB — Since the state moved into its Phase 4 reopening plan on June 26, local restaurants continue to grapple with keeping their employees safe while trying to stay financially afloat. 

The Phase 4 reopening plan allows for gatherings of up to 50 people and indoor dining at restaurants. Restaurants are able to serve gatherings of up to 10 people, while tables should maintain at least a six feet distance from each other, according to the reopening plan.

Fatty’s Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway:

Fatty’s Pub and Grille opened for indoor seating on June 26, but has still been operating as if the state is still in Phase 3 to take extra safety precautions, Jeff Dobie, owner of Fatty’s Pub and Grille, said. 

Dobie said employees at the restaurant have learned to adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions, while the community has been supportive of the restaurant by continuously ordering carry-out and delivery. 

“We’re operating at 40% capacity instead of 100%,” Dobie said. “It’s allowing us to pay our employees and keep the doors and lights on and open. We’re getting by, and we will continue to get by.” 

Dobie said they haven’t expanded much in terms of internal seating for the restaurant, including the bar. He said he made the decision to take extra precautions when it comes to indoor seating, because a crowded bar would be unsafe for both customers and employees. 

On Sunday, the restaurant posted to Facebook that several employees had been taken off the schedule to self-quarantine for 14-days after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Fatty’s closed Monday to deep clean the restaurant. 

“I think caution is the most important piece here, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Dobie said.

Pho N’ Grill, 913 S. Annie Glidden Road:

With Phase 4 in effect, other restaurants like Pho N’ Grill have decided to not offer dine-in options to keep employees and customers safe. 

Calvin Quan, owner of Pho N’ Grill, said they decided to delay dine-in options after seeing neighboring states closing soon after reopening. He said they plan to play it by ear for when the restaurant dining area will reopen again. 

“In order for us to feel safe, this is the best solution for the time being, not interacting with customers as much since we are all human,” Quan said. “All of our employees here have families to go back to, and this is the healthiest and safest solution we have so far.” 

Despite still offering carryout and delivery, Quan said business has dropped a significant amount since the pandemic began. The restaurant uses EatStreet, a food delivery app, as their delivery service. For each order, the delivery app takes out 20% of profits, Quan said. 

“We were at almost a 60% dine-in restaurant prior to the pandemic, we had to transition to an all carry out and delivery,” Quan said. “We’re basically shelling out outrageous amounts of money for a commission to EatStreet other than keeping it for ourselves.” 

Quan said the restaurant has already instilled new methods of disinfecting for when they plan to open. 

“I’m just trying to find a better solution where we can all feel safe for our employees and our patrons,” Quan said. “We’ve bought a fogger gun with food-grade disinfectant for the dining room for when we’re open.”

Aroma’s Hookah Bar, 811 W. Lincoln Highway:

Cameron Dye, an owner of Aromas Hookah Bar, said the business has been open for retail since April and opened its doors for service when Phase 3 began in late May. 

“I reached out to the police, back in April, asking about us being essential, since liquor stores were open, and since people that have nicotine addictions obviously still crave that, we should be deemed essential for that portion,” Dye said. “They never responded, so we decided to open up, and we never had an issue with it.” 

Dye said he spoke to City Manager Bill Nicklas about opening back up for service when Phase 3 began. Dye said Nicklas told him it was okay to allow customers into the bar, as long as they were social distancing and wearing masks. 

The business has spaced out seating at the bar to increase social distancing measures. Dye said they’re allowing up to 20 people to come in, and the business offers sale prices to customers so their services are more affordable. 

The pandemic, along with a new law established last summer that prohibits Illinois residents younger than 21 to possess tobacco products, has led to decreased business, Dye said. 

“It feels good to get back into business and try to save our business,” Dye said. “We still had to pay our bills with no revenue coming in for two months.”