Social distancing policies in Lincoln have shut down a lot of small businesses. For Dave Cole, owner of the Isles Pub and Pizza, it’s a glass half-full, glass half-empty kind of thing.
“We just stay on the full side and hope for the best,” Cole said.
The full side means transforming the back entrance of the Isles. That’s where 60 percent of the restaurant’s business happens anyway, Cole said, so the upgrade is more than worth it. After construction, a permanent breezeway structure will allow customers to enter while keeping nasty weather outside.
No one knows when The Isles, or many small businesses, will open for sure. Until then, construction on the permanent back entrance will continue, upgrades will be made to the front awning, and new tables and upholstery will replace the furniture inside. Employees will also keep busy with carry-out orders.
“We’re aiming for a fresh new look when we reopen,” Cole said. “We think customers will notice a lot of positive things.”
Located at 63rd and Havelock Streets, the Isles operates from three platforms: a banquet room, a batting room and a carry-out entrance. The banquet and batting rooms are both closed due to social distancing regulations, so carry-out orders have picked up, Cole said.
He’s been able to pay all of his employees by the hour, but many of them are homeschooling their kids. Cole encouraged the “big tip winners” to file for unemployment, since he’s only able to pay them minimum wage through this time.
Perhaps some of the most stressful parts of staying open during the coronavarus has been working with vendors, Cole said. Even though The Isles is able to stay open and fill pizza orders, there have been a few occasions where Cole has had to “get creative” when suppliers can’t complete deliveries.
However, he sees the good that has come from this, too.
Cole recognizes that The Isles is very fortunate to be able to operate similar to the way it always has, while several “friendly competitors” are trying to find ways to sell products in ways they never have before. He’s thankful for the clientele that has been supporting The Isles since he bought it in 1984, when it was called Misty’s Italianos.
“You always plan to make money, but if we can struggle through this with a breakeven, we’ll be one of the lucky ones,” Cole said.