When David Bancroft designed barbecue restaurant Bow & Arrow, he designed it with the intention of it being a relaxed, counter-service restaurant.

However, once COVID-19 came to Lee County, Bancroft realized that design was no longer viable.

“Everybody goes to the drink machine and touches the drink machine,” Bancroft explained. “Then everybody sits down and touches all the barbecue sauce bottles on the table and the paper towel holders. None of that exists in the COVID world.”

Once restaurants were forced to close for dine-in service under a statewide health order, Bancroft and his team began thinking about how to make Bow & Arrow safe and functional.

Thinking safety

“The first month we were looking around the restaurant like how in the world are we going to get this version, this layout, safe,” he said. “Like how is this version and this layout and this format ever going to be safe for the public to return to?”

Then, after about four weeks, the new design of Bow & Arrow fell into place.

“We finally just said, ‘you know, what if we put a central focus bar right here and utilize this entire wall,’ then every single thing else falls into place,” Bancroft said. “All the way to the front.”

And so it was, Bow & Arrow would be transformed into a sit-down restaurant where Bancroft’s staff would remain with guests throughout the dining process.

“Now that that model (counter service) is gone we’re going to be able to stay with the guest 100% of the way through their dining experience,” Bancroft explained. “Throughout that process, the hospitality is going to increase.”

The challenges

The restaurant industry throughout the country took a major hit when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, including locally owned restaurants.

“One hundred percent, every single locally owned restaurant just got pummeled,” Bancroft said. “I mean bloodied, beat up, financially.”

Bancroft, who also owns the restaurant Acre, felt fortunate that Bow & Arrow already was equipped to handle curbside orders. Acre, on the other hand, was not.

“Logistically, Acre was not set up for success and it made it very difficult for us to find a good way to even host and run a curbside pickup,” Bancroft said. “I can tell you the staff got very fit in the last two months running back and forth from that restaurant.”

The next step in the process for Bancroft was opening his restaurants safely. Acre is already open, but because of the model Bow & Arrow was designed for, the dining room remained closed.

“I would love just to be open,” he said about Bow & Arrow. “That would be amazing.”

Instead of taking the easy route, Bancroft has been working on remodeling the layout of Bow & Arrow over the past four weeks, a task he has found to be difficult.

“Having built two brand new restaurants it was far easier in removing and cleaning up an older model,” he explained.

“Redesigning and rebuilding a new model, recycling old items and trying to put a new version where an old version set has been far more difficult.”

Not only is the task more labor-intensive, but also the process forced Bow & Arrow to temporarily close.

“Well, as of right now, we’re only spending money,” Bancroft said. “We’re not making any because we are temporarily closed until we get moved in.”

The new model

Bow & Arrow will still serve its fan-favorite menu items, but now that the restaurant model has changed, Bancroft can start expanding the menu.

“When you’re doing counter service, you can only serve items that are quick, fast and fit a counter-service model,” he said. “Well, now anything I do with Acre I can do at Bow & Arrow.”

Bancroft plans to “bust the roof off” when it comes to the menu, but for now, the menu will look somewhat similar to Bow & Arrow’s original menu.

“It has 40% new expanded offerings,” he said. “We still have barbecue, all the same smoke meats, everybody’s favorites that were here but now I was able to round out the menu.”

Bow & Arrow’s bar manager Kristen Carey will also play a role in the new Bow & Arrow.

“She is the draw of our new bar,” Bancroft said. “She is going to make our bar what it’s going to be.”

Bancroft hopes Bow & Arrow can reopen by the weekend, starting June 26.

COVID-19 precautions

Bancroft has already seen COVID-19’s resurgence force other businesses to close, that’s why he feels the need to help keep the community safe.

“I need to be preventative moving forward,” he said. “We’ve seen other restaurants already close. We’ve seen bars have to close.”

Thankfully, Bancroft and his team have been able to learn how to best keep others safe while opening Acre.

“We’ve already learned so much,” he said.

Bow & Arrow will have strict health and sanitary measures in place, similar to those at Acre.

“All the safety measures and protocols that we’ve implemented at Acre, we’re only going to enhance them here,” Bancroft said.

“Just as Acre has had to evolve and get even more strict on our safety measures. All of the knowledge we’ve gained is immediate day one here.”

Bancroft’s right-hand man and GM at Acre and Bow & Arrow Blake Field is also helping Bancroft make sure safety is top-notch.

“(Field and I) also installed all of the policies of cleanliness and the COVID parameters at Acre and have already had those implemented here at Bow & Arrow,” Bancroft said.

Bow & Arrow will have limited seating, spaced out tables and other items spaced out once it’s open to keep employees and customers safe.

Bancroft hopes with Bow & Arrow’s new endeavor that the community will continue to think about his team.

“All we can do is ask the community to pray for us, help protect us, support us and please allow us a little bit of grace as we reopen in a brand-new format that this restaurant was not designed to operate in,” he said.

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