Tim Tower, November 4, 2020
We closed our Barnacle Billy's “restaurant system” on Sunday, November 1 at 8:00 PM. The “system” as I called it, utilized the kitchens from both restaurants to produce one menu for both places. So when the question of a closing date came up, I chose November 1 for both as that was the date when Barnacle Billy's, Etc. was to close.
It was the end of a very challenging season, to say the least. Between takeout as a major part of our sales with rum punches to go, to having fried food at Billy's and food runners, it was not an easy task to be in business last season. And it certainly didn't help that we could not open Barnacle Billy's, Etc. in the same fashion we have since we first opened it in 1989. We had limited dining inside at Etc. (eleven tables on the top floor) and we had the garden patio open from the onset of business. All in all, we ran with a quarter of our seating capacity for the both restaurants combined. We were very lucky in the fact that much of our seating was outside. We were also very lucky that the weather turned out to be as good as it was. In all the years I have been recording the weather for my fishing business and the restaurants, it was the nicest, rain free, warm season we have ever had. It was the weather we wished for under the circumstances. I do love a good drought!
We improved on a retail clothing business by partnering with Bullshirt in York for an on-line store. And we increased our selection of clothing for sale on-line as well as on the premises. The state allowed us to sell closed containers of cocktails/alcohol to the general public which certainly gave us a boost. And we changed the parking, eliminating the use of valets and including temporary parking for takeout pickups.
We also arranged a system where hosts would seat guests and collect phone contact numbers for each group we sat. Our cocktail servers turned into full service servers at both restaurants. So, no longer would you hear the numbers called to pick up your meal. Now food runners and servers did all that. I've told our patrons all year; “Don't get used the fried food and full service at Billy's.” But, as of today, I do not know which direction the restaurants will take for next year.
We managed a health protocol that had everyone wearing masks, washing hands frequently, wearing gloves and a night time deep cleaning system that brought working surfaces back to normal every morning. We sent one of our servers home when we found out that one of the parents tested positive for Covid. Two day's later our server tested positive. The Maine CDC came in, I had everyone tested and business continued under the guidance of Hospitality Maine and a closer watch from our staff. All our employees tested negative, our server came back after testing negative and with a note from the Maine CDC saying that it was okay to work again. We had not another incident after that.
This means to me that our system worked. Everyone stayed safe. Masks work. Washing hands works. Gloves work. And paying attention to social distancing works. In all the years that the restaurants have been open, by the end of the season we have had the flu go through the employees three or more times. This year, not a one! It shows you that we were doing enough to keep everyone safe. That meant so very much to me. And the visual effects of sanitizing the tables and chairs was not lost on all our patrons who I asked constantly; “Do you feel safe here?” Many mentioned the way we kept things clean and the tables further apart than the rules under the state mandate.
At the present time, I am assuming that business will go back to normal at the start of our season on April 9, 2021. I have set this date as a starting point not knowing if we will have to incorporate this last years system to some degree or if we will be free and clear for a normal two restaurant season to start again. I suggest that you follow our website and other social media outlets to find out exactly how we are going to get ready and run the restaurants next season. At the present time, Coronavirus outbreaks are spiking in the state of Maine and all over the world as a “second wave” of infections seems to be upon us. The state mandate will determine how we run our business for next season. Stay tuned.
I have to thank our employees and managers for the exceptional job they did of buying into the system, doing the jobs they weren't prepared for but still making the most of it, keeping an upbeat attitude and working very hard all season. We had many trying moments this year that kept me on edge wondering what was going to happen next. We had some employees that ended up leaving us because they thought they might get sick or were afraid they might pass the virus on to someone at home who was at a greater risk. Those employees who stayed paid attention, voiced their concerns, worked harder than ever and stayed with the protocols. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys did great!
A huge thank you to those patrons who gave us support in their visits and who stayed on the premises, to those uncomfortable patrons who came to order takeout time and time again and to those patrons who spread the word about the way we were handling the epidemic. You all helped us get through this. But not only that, we ended up doing better than projections had us finishing.
Did we do well this season? No, we did not. I don't think any restaurant in town did well. Did we do enough? I think so. Much will depend on our financial support, being forgiven with the PPP loan and our expenditures this winter.
With that last paragraph, I will leave you. I want to say that it was an honor serving you all this last season. And I also want to let you know that I am looking forward to another Barnacle Billy's season in 2021. Stay healthy and winter well, as my father would have said.