Local restaurant owner explains how he’s staying afloat

Local restaurants weathering the pandemic

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The restaurant industry has suffered some of the most significant sales and job losses since the coronavirus pandemic began nine months ago.

But local restaurants are weathering the storm.

Restaurants are a driving force in Alabama’s economy. Not only do they provide thousands of jobs, but they also provide a bit of normalcy during these uncertain times.

And that’s why Colby Conklin, the owner of EastWest in Downtown Birmingham, is fighting to stay open.

“A lot of patrons will say, ‘Look…you know…we just want to come by and support you.’ And you know…they see the understanding of how hard it is and the struggle and so I’m really happy and grateful that people are understanding that,” Conklin said.

This time of year is typically busy for the restaurant with holiday parties and shoppers stopping in for a quick bite.

But that isn’t the case this year.

“We had averaged two to three events a week at our restaurant. We had a nice event space upstairs that…you know…has its own bar. It was a great addition to our business model that we had and obviously we don’t have that now,” Conklin explained.

Lifelines like the Payroll Protection Program, and most recently, Governor Ivey’s Revive Plus Grant Program have been a much-needed boost, but Conklin credits his flexibility as the key to staying afloat.

“We just kind of had to adapt and realize that, you know what, if we’re going to survive, if we’re going to last through this, we’re going to have to open our dining room up, we’re going to have to do different things like do to-go orders and such, and so…that’s what we’re doing,” Conklin said.

Conklin added that he and his staff are making every accommodation to make the dining experience safe and enjoyable.

He said he wants his guest to be able to relax and forget about the pandemic, while having a great meal out of the house.

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