GREENSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — All Decatur County restaurants are ordered to close by 8 a.m. Thursday, increasing financial stress for workers already grappling with the governor’s statewide ban on in-person restaurant dining.
The Decatur County Board of Commissioners approved the emergency restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The county of 25,000 people, approximately 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis, has the state’s highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita.
Local officials acknowledged the hardship imposed on businesses by the new measures, which include halting carryout and delivery services permitted in other counties under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order.
“These restrictions will be revisited as the COVID-19 circumstances change,” the board of commissioners said in a Facebook post. “This is an ongoing and evolving public health crisis.”
Employees at Dairy Point, a family-owned Greensburg restaurant known for its ice cream, feared the closures would result in a local economic crisis.
“[My family’s] not spending money. I know my coworkers aren’t spending any money. So it’s going to hurt the whole community,” said Diane Strasburger, an employee and lifelong customer at Dairy Point.
Shutting down the dining area cost the “mom-and-pop” restaurant an estimated 50% of its revenue, she said.
A steady stream of customers placed their final carryout orders Wednesday evening before the countywide closures took effect.
Several stopped by the restaurant to use the curbside delivery service; Strasburger greeted all of them by name and had most of their dinner orders memorized.
Regular customers include Greensburg hospital workers, firefighters, police officers and other essential workers on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus, she said.
“Law enforcement still needs fed. Our fire department still needs fed. Our customers need us here,” Strasburger told News 8.
Restaurant owners learned about the new restrictions Tuesday night. Some disposed of food they had ordered in anticipation of ongoing delivery service.
Several barrels of Dairy Point ice cream would likely be thrown out, workers said.
Despite her concerns about the future of local restaurants, Strasburger said she appreciated the ramped-up response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I mean, I know two of the people [in Decatur County whose deaths were linked to COVID-19],” she said. “I grew up with one. I know it’s bad. I know the virus is bad. But I know it’s bad everywhere. Why isn’t it coming from the governor to shut down [restaurants in] the whole state?”
Refusal to comply could result in permit suspension and arrest, according to county commissioners.
Violation of the emergency order deemed to be “knowing, intentional or reckless” is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.