Governor John Carney on Monday modified his March 12 emergency declaration to limit Delaware restaurants, taverns and bars to take-out and delivery service only in an effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Carney’s emergency declaration takes effect at 8:00 p.m. tonight, March 16, while also banning public gatherings of 50 or more people, consistent with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and closes gaming activity at Delaware casinos. At the same time the Trump administration issued new federal guidance today advising against gatherings of 10 people and urging Americans to avoid eating in restaurants and bars.
Monday’s modification to Governor Carney’s emergency declaration also gives Delaware’s Secretary of Labor authorization to develop emergency rules to protect Delaware workers and ensure that unemployment benefits are available for Delawareans whose jobs are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
That will be particularly important for the restaurant sector, which spans more than 19,000 businesses employing 47,000 workers.
Carney acknowledged the economic impact of the indefinite closures and encouraged Delawareans to order takeout when possible to keep the businesses going.
“These restrictions will hit Delaware’s restaurants and bars especially hard,” said Carney. “Delawareans should continue to support these businesses, and their workers, by ordering take-out or delivery. Restaurants also remain a critical source of food for vulnerable populations.”
Dave Dietz, owner of Greenville’s BBC Tavern and Grill said the shut down was not unexpected but could be devastating to businesses and employees.
“This is going to be a tough time for BBC and for our employees” said Dietz. “This is going to be tough for all of the other restaurants, bars, and most small businesses.”
Dietz noted that many restaurants operate on razor thin margins and some could quickly find themselves in a dire situation, unable to pay the rent.
“Even the most successful restaurants rely on a steady, predictable customer flow, and base their business decisions on that,” he said.
Dietz, who created and hosts the popular Guest Bartender Program that raises money for local charities, also pointed to the knock-on effect of the closures impacting nonprofits and those in need.
“We’ve had about a dozen events scheduled for the next eight weeks who have had to postpone until further notice. Unfortunately, that is a lot of money that won’t be raised for charity and a lot of tips that won’t be earned by my staff,” he said.
Dietz said he was confident the community would rally around Delaware restaurants when they re-open, but that government action would be required to help them recover and even stay afloat.
“We are all in this together, and we as a community need to come together to help each other out as much as possible. We are going to find jobs around the restaurant to keep as many employees as possible working during this State of Emergency,” he said.
“I suspect the governor will be encouraging lending institutions to move quickly with lines of credit and small business loans or even public utilities to extend payments until things shake out,” he said.
Despite the grave times, Dietz sounded a philosophic tone. “We will get through this, our employees will get through this, and this community will get through this. This too shall pass.”
On Thursday, March 12, Governor Carney issued a State of Emergency declaration to mobilize state resources to prepare for the spread of coronavirus across Delaware.
Delawareans with questions about COVID-19 or their exposure risk can call the Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus Call Center at 1-866-408-1899 or 711 for people who are hearing impaired from 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or email DPHCall@delaware.gov. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.