Some Little Rock restaurants keep doors closed despite Phase 2 announcement

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Not all restaurant owners agree with the plan to go ahead into Phase 2 of reopening.

“They’re rushing into this too fast,” Gio Bruno said.

Gio Bruno, Owner of Bruno’s in downtown Little Rock, has had his dining room closed since the beginning of this pandemic. Thursday, Arkansas saw its highest increase in community cases. That’s enough for Bruno to continue to keep his doors closed.

“Curbside is doing enough to keep us alive right now,” Bruno said. “I’m in my mid-60s so, it’s a concern.”

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Phase 2 allows restaurants to operate at two-thirds capacity. Bruno said this alone would make it hard to operate with his smaller dining room.

“I don’t want to put my servers at risk, they’ve got to be closer than six feet to the table… they can’t throw the food on the table,” he said.

Jack Sundell, the owner of the Root Cafe and Mockingbird, also plans to continue with curbside and delivery.

“We’ll be launching an online store, so it’s much easier for customers,” Sundell said.

But customers who order take out at any restaurant here in SOMA, can now take their food and eat it at the temporary outdoor dining space. The 20 tent set up is located at 13th and Main and will have staff to make sure the tables are clean.

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“The owner of the parking lot, the landlord there, has generously let us use the space,” Sundell said. “We’re hoping that people are interested in it and we feel like it’ll be a safe place for people to go and eat take out food, they’ll be in the shade.”

As for seating in his restaurants, Sundell has no timeline.

“There’s no way we can be sure to keep our staff safe at this time when cases are rising,” he said.