After reopening in late August following a five-month closure, Rx Restaurant and Bar owners James Doss and Sarah Rushing Doss have made the difficult decision to suspend indoor and on-site dining yet again.
In an announcement posted to Facebook on Nov. 25, the owners of the restaurant at 421 Castle St. stated that they hope changing up their business model will lead them to the light at the end of the COVID tunnel.
“This is a personal decision we have made for our restaurant because it’s what feels right to us,” the post read. “We do not have a COVID case, and we don’t want to have a COVID case. We’re listening to public health guidance, which currently recommends against dining indoors.”
James Doss said navigating the pandemic has been a huge challenge on many levels, from keeping up with public health information to the PPP loan process to restructuring the way the restaurant functions.
Earlier this year the couple installed a Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) system from Blue Sky Energy Group and began construction of a new outdoor dining space. In October, they had set up a tented area for outdoor dining (now also closed) and have been keeping their indoor dining capacity below 50%.
With all of that in place, James Doss said their numbers were up in October, but since COVID cases began rising again, their numbers have dropped. That being the case, he said what makes the most sense now is to finish the outdoor area and focus on carryout.
“I really don’t see us reopening for in-house dining until that [outdoor] space is finished, which should be anywhere between three to five weeks,” James Doss said, noting that everything still hinges on what the COVID numbers are looking like at that point in time. “We’ve been very fortunate so far and we don’t want to take any chances.”
The new outdoor area will have radiant heat imbedded in the concrete floor and be surrounded by aluminum shutters with adjustable air flow. For the warmer months, there will be ceiling and mounted oscillating fans and space for air conditioning to be installed if necessary.
“It will be a comfortable four-season space,” James Doss said. “We just have to see how everything unfolds as to exactly how we’ll utilize it.”
Once the outdoor dining area is completed, he estimates that the restaurant will be able to seat 60 to 70 guests between the indoor and outdoor areas.
For now, James Doss is putting the finishing touches on a carryout menu that will feature some of Rx’s staples, as well as an expanded selection of lunch and dinner items designed to travel well. It will likely include a selection of gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads to which a protein can be added.
“The goal is to have one menu from 11 a.m. through 8 p.m. that changes just slightly each week,” he said.
James Doss is clearly concerned about public heath, but he’s also concerned about that state of the independent restaurant industry.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition reports that the industry employs 11 million people across the country, and indirectly supports 5 million more workers up and down the supply chain, including growers, packers, distributors, fishermen, vintners, butchers and bakers.
Doss is urging those concerned about the future of local independent restaurants to support the Restaurants Act of 2020, stating that current restaurant models are not sustainable in most cases.
The passage of this bill would establish the $120 billion Independent Restaurant Revitalization Fund geared toward assisting small restaurants and bars impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Revitalization Fund is estimated to generate up to $271 billion in economic returns, according to The Independent Restaurant Coalition, and it would provide restaurants with the resources and support needed for the challenging months and years ahead.
“I urge our customers to look into this and ask our elected officials to support relief for independent restaurants,” James Doss said.
More information about the Independent Restaurant Coalition and the Restaurant Act can be found at: https://www.saverestaurants.com/what-were-fighting-for/. Call-in orders for Rx carryout can be placed at 399-3080 and follow Rx on social media for updated menus and hours of operation.
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