WHILE SOME RESTAURANTS ARE OPENING THEIR DOORS, OTHERS ARE CLOSED FOR GOOD

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Restaurants, bars and some other businesses are fully open for business this week, but not all restaurants were able to weather the COVID-19 storm.

At the Levee Bar and Grill, the once-popular restaurant in Northport featured an empty parking lot, empty tables and locked door today.

Owner Gary McGee announced the business was shutting down permanently on Facebook.

“We’ve done everything we could,” McGee said. “We’ve exhausted our resources. We did not see a clear path forward to continue, and that’s the reason we’re having to shut down. This thing just exhausted every resource that we had and there’s just no more resources to continue.”

McGee said he has around 70 employees. Now, they’re all out of a job.

The Levee closed March 16 along with many other restaurants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the closure hit them harder than they thought.

“We were successful over there doing it for five years, and unfortunately this was what caused us to close our doors,” McGee said. “It wasn’t anything there. There wasn’t anybody sick. It wasn’t a partnership break-up or anything like that. This pandemic is the thing that caused us to close our doors.”

But The Levee isn’t the only spot lying dormant this week.

The Downtown Pub also announced this morning it won’t be opening. The pub didn’t cite a specific cause for the closure, but thanked everyone who’s come by throughout their 27 years in Tuscaloosa.

Other restaurants did open their doors again, but they’ll remain half-empty on purpose. Gov. Kay Ivey’s safer at home order requires restaurants to only allow up to 50% occupancy and 6 feet of distance between tables, among other sanitation rules and guides.

Buffalo Phil’s Owner Phillip Weaver said he’s been preparing for this day for weeks.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said. “We got commitments for all our people to come back and be at work and be staffed on the first day. A lot of restaurants are having to wait a week to get staffing and inventory. We’ve been ready. We’ve been busy.”

Weaver said staying open is his top priority.

“We’re wearing our masks, we’ve got a guy who walks around sanitizing door knobs, countertops, anything that’s been touched,” he said. “We’re doing anything and everything we can, not having anything on the tables, bringing people things they need, making sure we let one group in and one group out if we start getting too many people in the restaurant.”

Customers said they’re just happy to see some normalcy.

“It’s a relief,” said Austin Hynson. “I wouldn’t go as far as Christmas, but it’s a pretty similar feeling as we were sitting over there seeing the world again, seeing people out. The pandemic is real and it’s sad, but the world’s got to get back to normal.”

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