SIBLEY, Iowa — When 1015 Steak Company had to shut its doors on March 17 due to stay-at-home orders, it hit Rose Sogn hard.
“It was almost to the point where I was going to stay home if business didn’t pick up,” she said. “I live off tips, and I wasn’t getting any. But I like working here.”
Sogn, a server at Sibley’s high-end eating establishment on Second Avenue, kept coming back to help prepare to-go orders. She also works at a bar in Primghar, but that establishment was closed, too.
“Unemployment (insurance) helps. But you can’t live off that, either,” she said.
The future looks brighter now for 1015 Steak Company and for The Lantern Coffeehouse and Roastery, too. Both Sibley businesses are serving regular customers now — customers who can actually walk in and sit down.
On March 17, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the closing of restaurant dining rooms to attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Last Friday, she allowed restaurants in 77 counties that have experienced minimal COVID-19 cases to start waiting on customers at no more than 50 percent capacity. Some establishments opened earlier with special guidelines from local and state health departments.
The 1015 Steak Company was closed from March 17 until May 1. Owner Dustin Beenken told The Globe in an email that business has improved.
“The reopening has been going pretty decent,” he said. “The dining room is picking up more and more each day, but I would say that 70 percent of our guests are still using take-out and online ordering features. Everyone that has come in says they love the fact that they are able to come back and enjoy a great meal and drink.”
Round Lake residents Daniel DeRoo and his wife, Beth, are two of them. They enjoyed a sit-down meal on Wednesday at the steakhouse.
“This is the first time eating out since all this happened,” Beth said.
“Seems safe,” said Daniel. “Seems clean. In some places, you don’t have the room to do all the social distancing.”
The dining area at 1015 Steak Company is large enough to accommodate several families despite the need for careful distancing.
Beenken said he has complied with seating requirements. Ninety chairs and a few tables were removed. No more than six people are allowed to sit at any of the tables, which have been arranged to be at least six feet apart.
Tables, chairs, menus and table condiments are dutifully disinfected, the silverware is pre-wrapped and drink refills come in a new glass.
While the dining area has been closed to customers, the steakhouse suffered somewhat by doing takeout only. But devoted patrons kept the pain to a minimum.
“Business has been down, but we have had many great guests that have been ordering food to-go,” Beenken said. “It has helped us keep business going and have a good attitude about the shutdown. Without the great guests, the shutdown would have been a lot harder.”
Lantern shines again
At The Lantern Coffeehouse and Roastery, manager Brenda Hoyer is similarly appreciative of her customers. Her business closed at the end of the day on March 19, then began serving customers again on April 13, the day after Easter. It has been fully open since May 1.
Hoyer’s ability to reopen came after being approved by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan plan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.
“We wouldn’t have been able to make payroll (without PPP). The PPP was what allowed us to open up,” Hoyer said. “We’re just grateful for our community’s support, because we couldn’t do it without them.”
Hoyer also appreciates her staff — made up partly of high school students — for returning.
“They were bored and they were ready to come back,” she mused.
The coffeehouse stayed with normal hours when it reopened. Hoyer said she wanted to be consistent for her customers and keep her loyal helpers employed.
To comply with distancing orders, they took out one of the tables and shortened some others. A large table used by a group of businessmen on Mondays and Fridays was taken away. Now, the businessmen sit at two tables rather than one.
Apparently, some of The Lantern’s most loyal customers could hardly carry on without The Lantern while it was closed.
“There were some withdrawals. And we knew about it,” Hoyer said. “So we had to take care of them. We delivered some coffees.”
And as for Sogn, she says she’s a much happier and fulfilled person to see normalcy returning to the 1015 Steak Company.
“I am happy to get out of the house and be able to talk to people,” she said. “I like the interaction. I was starting to think my dog and my cats were going to start talking back to me.”