Numerous island restaurants have made the difficult decision to close for one or more nights this month following staff members testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to someone who was infected.
While these restaurants were not required to close by the Health Department, many did so out of concern for their staff members, customers, and the community at large, and in some cases because they would not have the staff to adequately provide service.
Even so, closing for one night during the busiest month of the year on Nantucket, especially following the losses sustained by restaurants during the pandemic, had to be a difficult decision.
So we checked in with Taylor Oliver and Dre Solimeo – the owners of Ventuno, Via Mare, and Pizzeria Gemelle – to ask about their decision to shut down Ventuno and Via Mare on Saturday, Aug. 7. They canceled more than 1,000 reservations between the two restaurants, and left close to $100,000 on the table, they said. But in the end, it was the right decision.
“We could have done a hybrid version where we didn’t lose all our business, but that didn’t feel like the restaurant we want to be,” Solimeo said.
After one of their staff members felt sick, got tested and received a positive result, Solimeo and Oliver spent more than $4,000 on rapid tests. When two more staff members who were asymptomatic also tested positive, “we said shut it down and get everyone re-tested” Oliver said.
“It was a very tough mental state for people to work in – you could see it in their faces, people were scared,” Solimeo added.
Two of the staff members that tested positive were cooks, the partners said, “and we’re already running with the slimmest kitchen we’ve ever run with, and more business than we’ve ever had. To have that kind of volume and staffing, we would be doing ourselves a disservice to open at that point.”
Probably 98 percent of the customers they called to cancel reservations were very understanding of the situation, they said, as were the employees of the restaurants. “Our staff knows how much of a hit we’re taking, and they’re missing out on money as well,” Oliver said. “But it was the right thing.”