Tim Tower, July 6, 2020
We initiated dine-in service since the last time I edited this Journal. It has been going well. Because we have been doing this since the middle of June, as well as continuing with takeout food and outside dining, we believe we have all the bugs worked out. Everything has been running smoothly. I have been going to every table on the property talking to patrons, getting opinions and making sure everyone feels safe. So far, I haven't come across anyone who doesn't feel safe. And, to our credit, we have been very consistent in our safety precautions along with the social distancing rules set forth by the Maine CDC, the parameters reinforced by Hospitality Maine and the recent regulations coming out of Augusta and our own Select Board in Ogunquit. The Ogunquit Police Department has been here several times to make sure all rules are followed. They have liked what they see. And our employees have totally bought into the program.
We had our busiest weekend to date during the July 4th holiday. There were more people here than any other time since last summer and, certainly, this year. But what was really nice was that everyone, with very few exceptions, was wearing a mask and very cognizant of those around them. We also enforce our patrons to wear masks or face coverings until they arrive at the table where they will be eating. At that point, they can take them off. But once you get up from the table, we try to make sure that the face coverings go back on. Unfortunately, the Town will not let us use the bathrooms in our original building but they have said that using the restrooms at Barnacle Billy's, Etc. is acceptable. This means a walk past our garden, up the street and on to your left. We have had the occasional complaint. But everyone seems to understand that under the “new normal” we all will be required to make sacrifices. Certainly the bathroom is one!
This will be our first week of daily service to the public. Before this we were closed on Tuesdays. Before that we were closed both Tuesday and Wednesday. So being open seven days a week is more towards what we do every summer. What we are not seeing is the number of employees we have enjoyed over the years. Our European J1 students are missing this year. We usually carry eighteen or so, plus or minus. Some of our former employees will not come back because they are too afraid that the increased exposure will make them vulnerable to catching the coronavirus. Some have not wanted to come back due to their unemployment status. And still others don't feel that they fit into the new system. What is encouraging is that the employees we do have are stepping up to the challenge. And I swear these individuals are doing a better job than they ever have before. Most are taking “the initiative”, something that makes me proud like a father. Don't tell them I said that. They might think that I have a heart. I wouldn't want to spoil the image.
Next Saturday we are planning on opening up our Barnacle Billy's, Etc. garden patio to table service. I say that we are planning. It could be that we won't be able to. This takes more careful preparation along with what we are already doing. And it takes employees, some of whom are now running food when they should be waiting tables. We have eleven tables in the patio, all socially distanced to make patrons feel comfortable. These are all “four tops” that can be put together for a family of as many as eight. We tried cocktail service here over the weekend with variable success. In order to really make it work,we have to offer full service. We shall see!
At this time we do not have enough employees to open our restaurant, Barnacle Billy's, Etc. Half of our menu now are food items that are made in the kitchen of Etc., including all our fried food. So most of it will be available. It just might not be where you usually find it. My plan has been to open both restaurants. I will keep you all informed as time progresses.
We are not going to make it through the winter with our seasonal business as constrained as it is. Our capacity to seat enough patrons is below the threshold to make a profit. We are riding that edge where a business model will tell you that we are headed to a break even point. But no model can include every variable. And we certainly will be relying heavily on our partner, Kennebunk Savings Bank, to get us through the winter. I am hoping they still consider us a good risk to protect. They have helped us tremendously to this point. I don't expect them to treat us any differently going forward. To me, the most important thing is to make sure everyone remains safe. My concern is, of course, our employees and our customers. Just as important is that our customers feel safe and enjoy themselves here. Important as well is the consistency of our food and the happiness it brings to everyone. My feeling is that even if we do not do our business as usual, our patrons will enjoy it so much that they will think of Barnacle Billy's as a destination. And we will do our part to make that as close to a reality as we can make it. I feel grateful for all the good employees we do have and certainly to those patrons who are honoring us with their support. Thank you!