‘Nothing you can compare it to:’ ‘Essential’ restaurants get creative to stay afloat

New procedures for “essential” businesses in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The coronavirus has seemingly transformed a city overnight from hustle and bustle to wide open spaces.

Wednesday marked the first day of only “essential” businesses being allowed to open. For those still allowed to do business, it’s not easy.

The four neon letters “OPEN” never quite carried the same deep meaning before at the Greek Islands Restaurant. The staple at 906 S. Meridian St. is weeks away from its 33rd anniversary.

Just opening the door for a news crew required a thorough sanitizing of the door handle and lock.

“We’re 70% down right now,” said general manager George Stergiopoulos. “There’s nothing you can compare it to. It’s drastically lower than it’s ever been before.”

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Tables, of course, are empty. Curbside and carryout are still available.

Several employees who are worried about the coronavirus have quarantined themselves at home. Everyone else has fewer hours.

But some customers have been good, too, buying food and gift cards.

“That’s what’s going to make the decision about how long we last,” Stergiopoulos said. “If we can get more people here, if we get a boost on Friday and Saturday.”

Elsewhere, on North Delaware at Greek’s Pizzeria, the front door is locked. Each customer or driver is greeted at the door but can get no further.

“Customers have to wait outside of the door, and we deliver it to them because we want to make sure we contain what is inside,” said Jessie Davis, Greek’s brand and operations director.

What’s inside is lots of hand sanitizer.

Every 15 minutes a timer reminds all employees to wash their hands.

This location just started delivering two weeks ago. Now, they have some quarantine combo specials, too, some partnering with their upstairs neighbor Black Acre Brewing Co. In a sign of the times, one special includes a free roll of toilet paper.

“Feels like it’s so bare downtown, definitely doesn’t feel like we’re in Indianapolis right now,” said Davis. “It’s extremely eerie. Working downtown and you’re used to so much robust business happening. It’s very off-putting.”

So while countless Hoosiers are kept home because they work for businesses deemed nonessential, it’s not easy for everyone still allowed to do business.

What’s essential to keep the neon “OPEN” lit is customer support.

“If there’s restaurants out there you’ve been dining out for years and years, hey, put them on your rotation,” Stergiopoulos said. “That’s what’s going to be the difference between who makes it and who doesn’t.”

Stergiopoulos adds it isn’t easy in an industry that usually doesn’t have high profit margins. It will be especially tough for restaurants in higher-rent properties.

But, he also said, he and other mom-and-pop places are pretty stubborn. They’re like cockroaches, they don’t go easy.

Certainly everyone hopes this stay-at-home order goes away soon.