Owners Douglas Hines and chef Mei Lin of the Consulate in Midtown made the decision to temporarily close the restaurant after service on Saturday evening, amid growing concerns for their staff and patrons over the spread of COVID-19.
“Saturday, March 14th will be our last dinner service until the recent issues are behind us all,” a post on Instagram states. “We feel it is the responsible thing to do to keep our guests and entire Consulate family safe.”
As of publication, the number of novel coronavirus cases in Georgia currently stands at 99, with the majority of those patients from counties throughout metro Atlanta.
The Consulate opened in 2016, and is located at the corner of 10th and West Peachtree streets. The James Bond-inspired restaurant is known for its “Visa” menu, which rotates every three months and features dishes and cocktails from various countries around the world.
Eater Atlanta reached out to Hines and Lin for comment on the closure and will update this story when further information becomes available.
Hines and Lin are hardly alone in facing tough safety and financial decisions at this time. Kathryn DiMenichi and Holli Medley announced the temporary closure of their Grant Park bar Cardinal at the Beacon on Sunday on Instagram in order to “support efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.” The bar was set to celebrate one year in business on March 27.
“We do plan on reopening Cardinal, but there’s been a severe decline in business over the last week and a half,” DiMenichi tells Eater.
DiMenichi and Medley also own adjoining neighborhood market Third Street Goods at the complex, which they plan to focus their efforts on now. Cardinal’s six staff members have traded in their duties at the bar for helping to prepare and deliver meals and groceries for Third Street Goods.
In addition to keeping their jobs during Cardinal’s hiatus, the 13 (combined) staff members of the bar and market are receiving a grocery stipend from Third Street Goods.
“If I have an opportunity to pull back from the bar, keep my employees safe from public interaction, push things forward at the store, and serve the community, the decision to close Cardinal temporarily is a no brainer,” DiMenichi explains.
An online store for Third Street Goods is currently in the works. Most of the shop’s inventory is already uploaded to the e-commerce site. DiMenichi hopes to launch the online store by early next week, with delivery options in Grant Park and other nearby neighborhoods.
While El Tesoro owner Alan Raines hasn’t decided to close his roadside cantina in Edgewood yet, he’s preparing for a decline in dine-in business as the weeks progress and COVID-19 persists. Raines is already dealing with a 30 percent staff shortage due to self-quarantine.
Despite all of this he tells Eater, “We are doing curbside takeout, which is up.” Raines encourages people to purchase rechargeable El Tesoro gift cards online to help support the restaurant if people aren’t comfortable dining in or ordering takeout.
For Inman Park baker Alejandra Luaces, the decision to temporarily close Hell Yeah Gluten Free is definitely on the table. Many of her employees and patrons live with autoimmune diseases and deficiencies, and Luaces says she doesn’t want to be responsible for placing anyone in harm’s way.
“We are concerned about the greater community. Where Italy is now, we could be about ten days from that, if no one does anything to help prevent the spread,” Luaces says. “I don’t want to be responsible for the spread of a disease that could potentially kill people.”
Luaces hopes to make a final decision on temporarily closing the bakery for a week or more within the next day or two, after she sits down with her small staff of six to have an “honest” conversation about their short term financial needs.
Since Hell Yeah Gluten Free opened last September, Luaces has been dumping a small amount of money into a couple of accounts in case of emergencies. She says she currently has about $10,000 in savings and $12,000 in a checking account — enough to pay her employees for the next two to three weeks if the bakery closes.
Luaces also contacted her landlord about a temporary rent abatement, though as of now she isn’t sure it will be possible. Next up, looking into a small business loan with a low interest rate.
“This is day-by-day kind of thing. Our approach is to assume everyone has it [COVID-19], and act accordingly.” Like Raines, Luaces encourages people to purchase online gift cards via the bakery’s website to continue supporting the business.
As of Sunday, March 15, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has yet to pass a statewide ban of large gatherings or call for restaurants and bars to reduce capacity, such as being done in New York City and Los Angeles, or completely close, like in Italy and France.
On Sunday evening, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms declared a state of emergency inside the city limits and banned gatherings of more than 250 people. Nearly an hour later, the CDC published new recommendations limiting public gatherings of more than 50 for the next eight weeks. However, neither provided further guidance for restaurants.
The convoluted and mixed messaging coming from the local, state, and federal levels further complicates how restaurants continue operating, while also protecting employees and diners. Many quickly pivoted to offering takeout and localized delivery to help offset the growing decline of business in the dining room or offering merchandise and online gift cards for future visits.
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NOTE: The novel coronavirus situation in Georgia is fluid and ongoing. Follow Eater Atlanta for continuing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Atlanta’s restaurant industry. Additional stories are forthcoming.
Check Georgia Department of Public Health for COVID-19 health guidance and updates.