Bars lose big business the night before Thanksgiving due to COVID-19 restrictions

The owner of Gerstle’s Place said Wednesday night is typically the bar’s highest revenue each year by far, on Thanksgiving week.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is usually the biggest night of the year for many bars. But with this year’s coronavirus restrictions closing bars indoors, many businesses said the loss of revenue will hit hard. 

“It’s not going to look anything like in past years. It’s not going to be real good,” Erik White, owner of Gerstle’s Place bar said Wednesday afternoon. 

White said Wednesday night is typically the bar’s highest revenue each year by far, on Thanksgiving week. 

“This week is our busiest week by far, busier than Derby week and really the next six weeks is our busiest time of the year,” White said. 

With Kentucky’s latest coronavirus restrictions closing the inside of bars until Dec. 13, owners like White are now relying only on their patio space for business. 

“Maybe 70 or 80 people so if we can get half that in here and it’s not too cold for them, that would be a win,” White said. “If we break even this weekend, I’ll be happy. I’ll be thrilled.”

White said he’s lucky Gerstle’s open air patio space, while many other small bars don’t have any outdoor seating. 

“I feel bad for people who don’t have these outdoor facilities because that has been a saving grace for us this summer, and through these new restrictions,” he said. 

“Losing the inside is big at both locations. It’s going to be a huge impact,” Jared Matthews, owner of Diamond pub & Billiards in St. Matthews and the Highlands, said. 

Matthews said during the restrictions, the revenue coming in just isn’t enough, given the limited capacity allowed. 

“There’s only so many people that you can put on either one of those decks,” Matthews said. “Our St. Matthews location, we’re about 30% outside, 70% inside. At the Highlands location, you’re looking at 95% inside.”

Both bar owners said they keep their bars open for their employees.

“We’re not going to do any revenue, we’re not doing anything to pay the bills but our servers and our bartenders, that’s how they make their living,” he said. 

“My employees, it’s tough seeing them cry. I’ve got a couple single mothers. I’ve got some other people who cant pay rent and they’re asking what are we going to do for Christmas,” White added. 

Gerstle’s is also remaining open for now, White said, to help his employees. But once the weather gets even colder, the bar may close its doors. 

“We won’t open. We won’t even attempt to open,” White said. “It’s just not going to work. I mean nobody’s gonna want to sit outside in 30 degree weather shivering all night, it just doesn’t make sense.”

Both owners said they fear if restrictions continue, more businesses will permanently shut their doors. 

“We think it’s going to extend through December and maybe beyond,” White said. “And that’s unfortunate. We’ll be able to make it through. It’ll be tough. I’m more worried about the employees than anything else. Gerstle’s will still be here.”

“There’s a lot of these places that are not going to be able to survive this. There’s already been a lot of closures. A lot of friends of mine have already closed their pubs or restaurants and it’s sad,” Matthews said. “Get out and support local. Support the industry because it might not be here.”