Some Grand Forks dining establishments resume normal hours, others wait and see
The change caught some business owners by surprise, and now some are tinkering with schedules or assessing what they can do.
While some Grand Forks restaurants and bars are looking forward to generating more sales, others are playing catch up, after Gov. Doug Burgum extended the hours they may be open.
On Monday, Dec. 21, Burgum amended an executive order that allows drinking and dining establishments to resume their normal hours of operation. Those businesses had been closed to in-person service between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. since Nov. 16, as part of a package of COVID-19 mitigation measures taken when the number of cases skyrocketed to more than 10,000 in the state. The change caught some business owners by surprise, and now some are tinkering with schedules or assessing what they can do.
“When I heard it yesterday, I was a little bit upset, just because it's really hard for businesses to plan when they give you absolutely no notice,” said Scott Franz, who co-owns Ely’s Ivy in downtown Grand Forks.
Franz said he is planning a special tasting menu on New Year’s Eve, as a way to do something special for customers. It was an event he planned thinking he would have to close at 10 p.m., but now that he can be open later, he said he could have planned something else. For now, Franz said he will watch customer numbers in the evenings and expand his hours appropriately depending on demand, but Burgum’s order may have made the change for him.
“It's up to us whether we want to do it or not, but, at the same time, people kind of expect us to be open,” Franz said. “We thought we were going to be extended further.”
Joe Schneider, who co-owns Joe Black’s Bar and Grill and The Hub Pub, said his establishments would be open until 2 a.m., seven days a week, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas day, when they are closed entirely.
He didn't expect a huge rush Tuesday night, but he did add staff for Wednesday evening. In the short term, at least, the biggest windfall will be New Year’s Eve, he said, noting he previously thought it would be another loss.
“It’s huge for Joe Black’s,” Schneider said. “We do over 50% of our sales after 10 p.m.”
Though resuming normal hours is good for his employees, as far as tips go, people get settled into a routine and need time to make adjustments in their own lives, before hearing a fundamental change to their work hours.
“People would prefer to know what’s going to happen next week, not tomorrow,” he said.
Like Ely’s Ivy, other restaurants need to reassess before resuming their regular hours. Tanner Due, a manager at Ground Round, said the kitchen will still close at 10 p.m. and last call will be at 10:30 p.m., at least until the management team has a chance to discuss the situation.
Burgum’s order allowed restaurants and bars to resume their normal hours as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, but they must still observe the rule that caps their capacity at 50%, and not more than 150 customers until 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 8. Tables must still be spaced six feet apart, and dance areas are required to be closed. Customers and employees must wear masks, except while dining.
The state Health Officer order requiring masks to be worn in indoor businesses and outdoor public settings where social distance can’t be maintained remains in effect until 12:01 a.m. Jan. 18. Banquet, ballroom and event venues must also remain limited to 25% of their maximum occupancy, not to exceed the N.D. Smart Restart capacity limits , until 8 a.m. Jan. 8.
Burgum, in a Dec. 21 news release, asked residents to remain vigilant in the face of falling cases of the coronavirus. As of Monday, active cases have decreased to 2,655 since peaking at 10,293 on Nov. 13, according to the Department of Health. The state’s 14-day rolling average positivity rate also has decreased from 15.7% to 6.2% since Nov. 17.
“The next 10 days over the holidays are a period of high risk for transmission, and it’s up to all North Dakotans to ensure we continue trending in the right direction,” Burgum said.