Pour It Up

With bars now back open, Bartender Lily Khalatbari pours a drink for a customer at Crooks Den in South Daytona on Friday, Sept. 18.

The kegs are flowing again and the beers are on tap, but while bars throughout Volusia County and the state officially reopened Sept. 14, the good news still came at a price.

Cathy New, who owns Buzzards Roost Bar in Deltona, is putting her bar up for sale.

“I’m just done with all of this,” Ms. New said. “I’m six months behind, so the only thing I can do is sell the bar so I can pay my landlord. I’m happy that we’re open, but people need to realize now we’re six months behind on everything. What a lot of people didn’t know either, we still had to make the electric bills. You just can’t let that go because of the coolers. I still had to have my cable on because I have a security system and cameras so I still had to pay that. Thank God my husband was busy and working this whole time. We would have lost everything.”

Bars aren't the only ones hurting, she said. “The beer companies are, too.”

She added she is losing money even after reopening because customers are staying home, are congregating with neighbors or have developed new routines with establishments, such as restaurants that serve alcohol so their loyalty has changed.

Opening day was fabulous for her, but the rest of the week not so much. Under the current guidelines she can accommodate 70 people. Social distancing measures are in place, a thermometer to take temperatures and a hand sanitizing station. There is not a mask mandate. Patrons cannot stand at the bar but must be seated and drinks will be brought to them.

She also invested money in a food license, which is pending, and spent money buying approved kitchen equipment so food can be served in the future, which would allow the bar to remain open if there is another shutdown of bars. Staff have to take safe food handling training as well.

Buzzards Roost Bar had been an establishment allowing smoking, however, and cannot now unless sales from food are under 10%. She stated some bars are just going to remain nonsmoking as food sales will surpass that mark now as many have gotten the restaurant license.

Renee Holmes, who owns Trader’s Sports Pub in New Smyrna Beach, also just reopened. Interviewed on opening day (Sept. 14), she said, “It’s been a pretty good day. It started off slow with a lot of locals, a lot of regulars. I think everybody is just happy to be back up and running. The customers, employees, myself. As of today, we’ve only been open 97 days this year. This is a local establishment, that’s what we pride ourselves on. So, it’s been nice to have that support, people wanting to come back to have some sort of normalcy in their life again.

“I’m cutting the hours and the staff I have right now is limited,” Ms. Holmes said. “A lot of people had to find something else to do. I’ve got about half that came back. We’ve had to move tables to keep the six-foot social distancing. I’ve actually put tables on the dance floor since no one is able to utilize the dance floor right now. It gives a little more space for everybody. It seems like we’ve been the last ones to open and we’ve been hurt the most. So, it’s nice to finally get a chance to open and I hope it stays that way.”

Michael Knight, a former Illinois police officer, owns Crook’s Den on Beville Road in Daytona Beach. It was relocated in spring 2019 after a fire destroyed the original bar on Orange Avenue in 2018.

He said the bar has been open for about a month because they went and got a business and restaurant license and served items like burgers and pizza. They will always keep the license, but he prefers to allow smoking in the bar so food will not be their main source of income now that bars can reopen as bars.

“I like to see everybody make a living,” Mr. Knight said. “I was kind of depressed knowing that some of my friends that own businesses were closed and we were able to open. If this is the living they wish to do I hope they can be successful in doing it.”

Mr. Knight also owns the Port Hole Bar & Grill in Port Orange, which has served food all along.

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