Arkansas restaurants see 35 percent loss in revenue compared to last year

The coronavirus pandemic forced most small business owners to shut their doors and many of them are still trying to make a come back.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The pandemic forced most small business owners to shut their doors and many of them are still trying to make a come back.

When Chris Tanner closed the doors at Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill back in March, he never thought it would take six months to re-open.

“It’s just crazy to not see your employees for that long,” Tanner said.

He had to furlough more than 70 employees because the restaurant has not been taking in any revenue.

“Everybody is excited to get back to work. The enthusiasm. It’s fun to see,” he said.

Tanner also owns Cheers in the Heights, which opened up four months ago.

 “A lot of the business has come back. A lot of days even more than it was,” Tanner said.

This encouraged him to reopen Samantha’s starting Thursday. The decision to keep it closed until now was because downtown Little Rock became pretty desolate once the pandemic hit. 

Cheers in the Heights is more of a neighborhood restaurant, encouraging for foot traffic.

“You can see a little bit more cars, more people walking [downtown]. Still not what it was,” Tanner said.

“As good as the state of Arkansas is doing on a relative basis, we still have a long way to go,” Steuart Walton said.

Walton, head of Arkansas’ Economic Recovery Task Force, said the restaurant and hospitality industry is still taking the biggest hit in the state.

“Restaurants, they’re trailing last year’s revenue at about 35 percent below where they were last year, that’s just for the month of August.”

With fewer tables and chairs than before, only time will tell how well Samantha’s will fair. But Tanner is hopeful things will bounce back eventually.

“At the same time, we want to help get downtown going again,” he said.

Samantha’s in downtown Little Rock opens Thursday and is accepting reservations and walk-ins.