Coping with Covid
Businesses Take Different Approaches to Follow Rules
Louisiana has entered Phase 3 of its COVID-19 restrictions, which will ease some of the previous requirements on businesses and individuals.
In its announcement, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office said, “The new order will be in place for 28 days, expiring on Oct. 9. In it, restaurants, churches, salons, spas, gyms and other businesses will be able to open at a maximum of 75 percent of their occupancy, with social distancing in place.” The governor warned that this phase, with what he called perhaps minor modifications, “is likely where we stay until a vaccine is widely available.”
The statewide mask mandate remains in effect.
Under Phase 3, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops will be allowed to continue drive-up or curbside delivery service. They will also be allowed to offer dine-in service, providing certain conditions are met. Those conditions include no self-service, closed lobbies and a 75% occupancy.
Locally, restaurants have taken steps to maintain their business since the pandemic struck. Some are opting for the drive-up and curbside only, while others are also providing dine-in and dine-out with tents erected in their parking lots. Ki’ Mexico in Madison Park and Taqueria San Miguel in Bossier City, among others, have tents with limited seating in their lots.
Still others have found other ways to cope with COVID. Sunshine Health Foods in Shreveport has installed a drive-through window in their store. According to coowner Kenneth Willoughby, the window debuted about three weeks ago and is beginning to catch on with customers.
“People are taking more advantage as we go. It’s a work in progress. We’re still trying to get the word out. We’re just trying to spread the word about it,” Willoughby said.
The installation allowed the store to reduce close contact with customers, he said. “We are still also offering a curbside option, and that extends to store products as well. If people want to place their orders ahead of time on the phone, we’ll gladly serve them through the window.”
Willoughby bought the Shreveport store from the original owners in 2019. Since that time, they have made some changes inside the store as well.
“We don’t do an open salad bar anymore. Instead, we have all the same ingredients; we just build it for the customer. We have a lot of keto offerings for people in the low carb lifestyle. We can accommodate many more vegan options, gluten-free things. We’ve also started doing a little sampler of our three iconic salads. It’s a scoop of our tuna salad, chicken salad and the homemade avocado spread that comes with chips for dipping and good times.”
Established locations are not the only food service businesses coping with COVID. Even local charities are facing restrictions as they try to serve their missions. Lisa Cronin is an attorney by day and a volunteer in her free time with the Common Grounds Community located in the Cedar Grove area.
When the Methodist Conference decided to close Faith United Methodist Church in Cedar Grove, it donated the 25,000-square-foot building to Common Ground. The group began serving their regular Thursday night meals out of their new facility. At 5:30 p.m., they would serve a meal and then allow the needy to select items from their food pantry and clothes closet.
“Here comes COVID, and we have to pivot like everybody else in the world. We began to serve our meals outside curbside, and we are still doing that. We average about 300 [meals] a week,” Cronin said. “Normally, we would have served them inside, but we just don’t have enough room to serve that many people and have them socially distanced and have them eat. Even under Phase Three, our numbers are such that we just can’t do it inside.”
So, despite COVID-19, hungry folks can still find sustenance, albeit with some modifications.
Common Ground’s Cronin said, “We serve a hot meal every Thursday night, curbside, and folks come by, and we’ve made a bunch of new friends this way.”
For Sunshine Health Foods, the interior and exterior changes were undertaken with care. “We wanted to continue that. We didn’t want to change it so that people thought it was a totally different operation,” Willoughby explained.
“With COVID people weren’t coming in as much, but once people feel more comfortable, we’ve got much more dining area, and we have Wi-Fi. We’re really trying to bring ourselves into the 21st century. But the drive-through is the biggest deal for us right now.”