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Ohio Restaurant Owner Reacts To Closing Due To Coronavirus

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Illinois, Ohio, California, Louisiana, New York, Washington - those are some of the states that have ordered bars and restaurants to close or to decrease capacity because of coronavirus. Now, might this last days, weeks, months? We don't know, nor do restaurant owners and employees. They do know they are worried whether they will be able to make it through this, among them Adrian Adornetto. He owns three restaurants in Zanesville, Ohio, where all restaurant dining rooms have been ordered closed. Two of his restaurants are still doing takeout. He has had to shut the third altogether. He joins us now from Zanesville.

Hey there. Welcome.

ADRIAN ADORNETTO: Thank you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Start with when and how you learned that you were going to have to close your dining rooms.

ADORNETTO: Well, I learned along with the rest of the great state of Ohio when the governor made his announcement at 3:30 on Sunday, which would've been March 15.

KELLY: So just yesterday.

ADORNETTO: Just yesterday at 9 p.m. was the orders.

KELLY: Did this come as a total surprise, or were you braced for it?

ADORNETTO: A total surprise - with everything going on in the country and the great state of Ohio, we were preparing a little bit in my restaurant group four or five days ahead, as this would be the next logical option for us. I think every day, we're all getting surprised - right? - every press briefing, whether it's national, on a state level. We are just living in a reality that we're not - that we're - it's almost like we're in a long movie.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, tell me what your restaurants look like today compared to how they would have looked if I'd called you on a Monday four or five weeks ago.

ADORNETTO: I have one restaurant that cannot open at all. It's a fine dining restaurant. We don't have established takeout process, so it's completely closed. All my employees are - don't have a source of income. We're trying to actively work with them. We do offer paid time off and had established policy of that for several years now. Some employees are using that and cashing in their paid time off. Since I do own other restaurants, we are creating a list where these employees could be cross-trained and used at our other restaurants. We are also helping at the specific restaurant where they completely shut down with trying to get on unemployment and trying to help them navigate through that and giving them all the resources that we can to answer the questions like start dates and past pay stubs and things of that nature.

KELLY: And how's the business at the other two, where you're still able to do takeout?

ADORNETTO: Still down. When it gets, dare I say, clear - maybe a little bit more clear, I think we will have a thriving, good takeout business. But keep in mind takeout is, at our other two restaurants, about half our business, so we're still bringing half our income. We're still having half of our employees who are not unemployed. Right now we know nothing. We're being told day by day from our federal government and our state government, and obviously, all options are on the table. So there may come a point that we are completely shut down, and we're preparing for that.

KELLY: Yeah. I know one of your takeout places - now-takeout places - is a pizza place, which prompted me to wonder. I'm sure the margins on pizza got to be things like big gatherings - you know, sports events and birthday parties where you're ordering 25 pizzas for the kids or a sports team or something. Is all that business just gone right now?

ADORNETTO: As it stands now, yes. And you bring up a fantastic point. Think about it - all the sporting events that drive pizza when you don't have the NCAA. We have a local girls' basketball team that was supposed to compete in the state final four in basketball. Things like that drive pizza sales. And with all the uncertainty, people are watching their cash. You know, do I really want to get that takeout food? Yes because I'm hungry. But, you know, what maybe I'll skip today because I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring.

KELLY: So how long can you sustain this?

ADORNETTO: We are fortunate in our restaurant group. It's a family business. My father started these restaurants in 1958.

KELLY: Oh, wow.

ADORNETTO: So weeks is one thing, which is going to be very tough for anybody. A month, we can go. When you start getting in farther, we are going to have to make some very, very hard decisions on top of the hard decisions we've already made.

KELLY: Adrian Adornetto, thank you.

ADORNETTO: Thank you.

KELLY: He's speaking to us there from Zanesville, Ohio, where he owns three restaurants. All the restaurant dining rooms in that state have been ordered closed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.