Kasha Walters, the general manager and operating partner of The Hound, said the Auburn restaurant has laid off about 80 percent of its staff due to the financial ramifications of the coronavirus.
With money being a concern for The Hound and most local restaurants, the Alabama Beverage Commission delivered changes this week that should bring a much-needed boost to their sales.
The ABC authorized emergency powers Tuesday to allow restaurants in Alabama to give customers the option of ordering alcohol for curbside pickup starting the following day. Restaurants must have a valid liquor license to offer patrons to-go orders of alcoholic beverages, and all beverages must be sold in sealed, unopened containers.
The employee handling the alcohol also must be 21 or older, and the business can not sell more than one 750-milliliter container of liquor, one 750-milliliter bottle of wine or one six-pack of beer per customer. The business is responsible for following all other ABC regulations such as carding for minors.
The rule changes do not allow the sale of mixed drinks or open containers of alcohol to go.
For Walters, ABC’s decision to relax these laws came not a moment too soon.
“We are very grateful that this mandate came through. As most restaurants do, we have a stock of liquor, bourbon and wine that we’re not going to be able to serve to our guests in-house, so this is an opportunity for us to liquidate that inventory and also get that into the hands of the people who are stuck at home,” Walters said. “A person buying a bottle of spirits or a bottle of wine with dinner or whatever, every little bit adds up to somebody having a job.
“Every single dollar that comes in right now is what is going to staffing people. We are fighting to keep our head above water so we can bring all those people back on.
“When I say like every little bit helps, if somebody can only afford a sandwich, get a sandwich. If somebody can only afford to get a bottle of wine once a week, get a bottle of wine once a week. Every single bit of people patronizing our businesses right now is giving us life to be able to put money into somebody else’s pockets.”
Since the changes, The Hound has made wine bottles available for purchase with to-go orders. Additionally, the restaurant has begun releasing new bourbon-bottle options every day at 4 p.m. through its merchandise store.
For example, Thursday’s options included five bourbons ranging from $30 to $150.
Acre is another one of the local restaurants taking advantage of the changes, although it took its time in rolling out the new options.
John David Hammond, who is the restaurant’s general manager, explained that Acre waited until Friday to start offering to-go drinks to get a list together of what to offer and to get the proper packaging lined up.
Hammond said the restaurant already had wine bags to use, and it now has sealed cup containers for the liquor. It also will serve its beer in six-packs that are packaged to give them an Acre feel.
Acre’s staff has created what Hammond called a “greatest-hits menu” for patrons to choose from, and he said customers can call or email the restaurant to request that additional wines or liquors be added if they’ve had those at Acre before.
“We are very, very grateful for this opportunity they’re providing us to do this,” Hammond said. “I know every restaurant in town is excited. I’ve talked to multiple restaurant owners, restaurateurs and chefs.
“Obviously the to-go program is the major driving force, but to be able to potentially package in some wine or some beer is really going to open the door for us to be able to kind of drive as many different revenue streams as possible, which at a time like this is exactly what we’re going to need.”
The major developments regarding the coronavirus have sent restaurant owners and employees scrambling to ensure the safety of others while also keeping their businesses afloat.
Hopefully for Walters, Hammond and the others working locally, the changes regarding alcohol sales will allow their establishments to bring in more money during a time full of uncertainty.
“We’re excited at the opportunity that it’s providing us to be able to support our staff and to be able to generate buzz,” Hammond said. “The alcohol sales are really going to be able to provide us that boost that we’re looking for.”