As days of forced closures stretch into weeks, local businesses struggle to stay afloat.
By SARA VANDEN BERGE
Greer’s Ranch Café has been a popular place near the Erath County Courthouse to gather for a meal or cocktail since opening in 2014.
The quaint restaurant owned and operated by chef Phil Greer is perched on a corner lot directly across from the iconic Scott’s Flowers on the Square.
Both businesses have been closed for weeks now as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on with no clear timeline on when restrictions to stop the spread of the virus might ease.
Greer’s is one of dozens of restaurants in Stephenville that has been forced to close its dining room, lay off employees and scale back on hours.
“Fortunately, we have loyal customers - so we have had a little bit of business - enough to keep some of us working,” Greer told me during a phone interview.
Greer’s is offering curbside service from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but the business is far less bustling than what he is accustomed to.
“I have four people working at a time,” he said. “Me and another person in the kitchen, with someone taking orders and another delivering curbside.”
He said he was sad to learn on Tuesday that another longtime restaurant – Golden China – would not reopen after the pandemic ends.
He said reopening Greer’s sooner rather than later is “critical” to the restaurant’s long-term viability.
“When this breaks, we will be ready to go, but things will look different,” Greer said. “I think we will have customers who are concerned, so we will have table spacing and limit the number of guests inside. I am going to have to frown on shaking hands and hugging customers. That’s just the way it will have to be.”
A BLOCK AWAY
The parking lot of the city’s newest hotspots, Hearsay Wine Bar, sits empty, a stark reminder that once vibrant businesses now sit silent.
Hearsay, like other bars and restaurants, was forced shut its doors to the public on March 18.
It’s been difficult for owner Lisa Pendleton who opened the wine bar in November 2019.
“This was my dream,” she said. “Opening a place like Hearsay Wine Bar was something I always wanted to do.”
Pendleton spent more than a year remodeling the building and transforming it into a chic lounge where residents could enjoy high-end and reasonably-priced wine, beer and charcuterie boards.
“I put my heart and soul and much of our family’s resources into this business,” she said. “I’m scared that if this doesn’t turn around soon and I’m not allowed to reopen, I won’t make it.
“I was forced to let go of six employees and the only thing keeping me alive right now is the government disaster loan and the paycheck protection program.”
DOWN THE ROAD
Local businessman Court Cole opened Bull Nettle Sports Bar & Billiards in 2006, and what bothers him most about being forced to close is the impact it’s had on his employees.
“It hurts and it hurts my employees,” he said. “It has taken a month for them to get their first unemployment check and that was only about half of what they normally make.”
He, too, is hopeful restrictions will soon begin to ease and businesses like his can begin the slow process of reopening to the public.
“You can’t treat rural Texas like New York or Dallas,” Cole said. “We don’t have people piled on top of each other. There have only been 13 cases (of COVID-19) in Erath County.
“It’s time to start easing back into normalcy.”
COMPLETE SHUTDOWN FOR SALONS
Carie Wright has owned The Salon for 15 years, specializing in hair, nails and massage.
It’s an industry that has been hit particularly hard with no opportunity like restaurants to remain partially open for business.
“Everything has changed for me,” Wright said. “Business-wise, it’s been hard. It’s a scary time. I lost my biggest time of the year with prom season and now I have lost three weddings.”
Wright said she is crossing her fingers that she is allowed to reopen soon.
“I will make it through April, but I am starting May with zero, so we need to get back open,” she said. “You can only stretch things so far.”