Header Image

Columbia businesses adapting to COVID-19 changes

Story by Jay Powell – The Daily Herald

With Monday’s State of Emergency announcement, Columbia businesses are now forced to think of alternative measures to stay alive, with many limiting hours or closing all together.

Over the weekend, the city launched a new #MuletownMighty Facebook page and website, where local retailers and restaurants can post their limited hours, information about online ordering, curbside pickups and any other up-to-date news as the COVID-19 situation progresses. Muletown Mighty also has an official site at www.muletownmighty.com. The Facebook page can be accessed at www.facebook.com/pg/muletownmighty.

Shady Brook offers (clean) private rentals

Shady Brook Cinemas, 1907 Shady Brook St., now offers a package deal for $100, which reserves one of its theaters for a private showing of up to nine people. Call (931) 981-2225 to make reservations, which can be scheduled at any time during regular business hours from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Shady Brook Director Connie Poling said this is an effort for the local theater to not only try to continue business, even if it’s only a little bit.

“I know this is serious, and I hate to see people panicking. I’m just trying to keep a little bit of normalcy to life, as well as you can in this type of situation. None of us have ever been in this kind of situation before, so we’re all kind of winging it,” Poling said. “This whole thing is really going to cripple our town, I’m afraid. We’ve got so many good small businesses, and I’m sure this has been really tough on them.”

More importantly, she wants to provide a means for families to still get out of the house, but doing it by taking extra steps to ensure a clean experience with minimal contact with others. She assures people that theater staff are doing everything they can to maintain a low-risk environment for patrons at all times by following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and routinely cleaning every surface a person might touch.

“We’re doing these private shows for families who are sitting at home. I’ve had a lot of feedback about it, people asking, ‘Can we really do that? Can we still get concessions?’ and I tell them, ‘yes,’ we have gallons of stuff to keep it clean, and our employees are wearing gloves.” Poling said. “They are wiping down all of the entrance and exit doors and are keeping it clean constantly. If they are not serving you, they are probably cleaning something.”

Shady Brook’s regular showings have also been reduced to only six per day. with start times between 2-4 p.m. and only 10 people allowed per showing. Showtimes will also be spaced apart throughout the day, preventing crowds of more than 10 from being in the main lobby at any time. Tickets may be purchased at the box office or online at www.shadybrookcinemas.com.

Only one restroom will also be open during business hours, which Poling said will be easier to clean and control on a regular basis. Staff will also thoroughly inspect and clean every theater after each showing.

“We’re doing everything we can to not have a crowd of more than 10 people under any circumstance,” Poling said. “We’re cleaning all of the theaters between every show, wiping down all of the seats, all of the door handles. We’ll also only have two employees working to keep our employee exposure down, which will just be our key managers, and they’re wearing gloves all of the time.”

For those who’d rather stay home, but still have part of that familiar movie theater experience, Shady Brook also offers concessions to-go, including its $8 big bags of popcorn, large soft pretzels, nachos, hot dogs, White Castle burgers and cookie dough. Shady Brook is also selling its $50 loyalty cards for $35, as well as 10% off Muletown Movie Card packages through the end of March, which Poling said is a way the community can still support its local theater, even if citizens wish to not attend a showing at this time.

“We’re trying to at least keep our doors open and give that option for people, while giving us a little bit of income. Granted, it’s not a lot, but every little bit helps right now,” Poling said. “We’re a family-owned, independent theater and a small business too, and this whole thing has been hurting us a lot. This is way we are adhering to all of the CDC’s requirements, the local government requirements, and we’re still offering this option for everybody.”

Restaurants/breweries go to-go

In a press conference Friday, Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder expressed the need to maintain support of the city’s local businesses, as they are the ones hurting the most at this time.

“Our businesses and small business owners, many of which are the lifeblood of this community, are managing through this economic downturn, which forces them to live in the moment and make critical decisions for today, but are left wondering what tomorrow may bring,” Molder said. “Understand that these small businesses rely on all of you to stay afloat. Figure out creative ways to continue to support these businesses.”

Another area of local businesses heavily affected by the COVID-19 outbreak is restaurants. Monday’s State of Emergency temporarily suspends restaurants from allowing dine-in options of more than 10 people, but will still allow for take-out and delivery options.

In an effort to keep business going and employees working, Puckett’s in downtown Columbia now offers take-out and delivery service for its patrons. Local craft beer tap houses Asgard Brewing Co. and Bad Idea Brewing have also restricted business to only allow to-go orders on individual beers, growlers and kegs.

Puckett’s parent company A. Marshall Hospitality announced this week that it also plans to donate 20 percent of proceeds from gift card sales to employees who have been temporarily laid off due to the present circumstances. CEO Andy Marshall has set a goal to sell at least $500,000 in gift cards, $100,000 of which will contribute to assisting employees as the company takes state-mandated COVID-19 precautions.

“The core value of our company has always been to maintain a family-like, service-minded atmosphere, within our internal team and with every guest who walks through our door,” Marshall said in a press release. “During these trying times, we want our team to know that we are all in this together, and we hope the community will join us in supporting local business and our beloved hospitality industry as a whole. Many people have asked me, ‘How can we help?’ My answer is simple, ‘Order some food, and buy a gift card.’”

Gift cards are available via the Instagift app or at any Puckett’s restaurant location. A. Marshall Hospitality has also created Cenmo and Paypal accounts, where people can donate directly to the employee benefit fund.

Puckett’s is also offering “to-go packs,” which will feed 4-6 people for $49. The packs come with a choice of two one-pound meats, two quart sides and a dozen Cajun corn cakes or rolls.

For takeout orders at the Columbia Puckett’s, call (931) 490-4550 or access the Postmates app. Puckett’s normal operating hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Dine-in seating is still available, but on a limited basis.