MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) — Opening a restaurant during the best of times is a difficult experience, but eight Grand Strand restaurants have had their grand opening during a pandemic.
Two of those restaurants, Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux near Carolina Forest and Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar and Grill in North Myrtle Beach, opened this summer despite the threat of COVID-19.
Don Cauthen, the owner of Dirty Don’s, has two other restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area. He entered into a lease in August of 2019. When everything began to shut down in March, Cauthen was well into building his restaurant in Shops on Main in North Myrtle Beach.
Cauthen said that he had some sleepless nights over his decision to open the new restaurant.
“With two other locations operating and I’m building a third one,” Cauthen said. “Then you have the pandemic and then they shut you down for fifty seven days. You go ‘Why am I doing another restaurant?'”
Cauthen approached his landlord about pulling out of his lease. They worked out a deal that would defer payments and lower Cauthen’s rent payments until business returns to normal.
Doug Hornsby, a managing partner of Walk-On’s, has opened other restaurants throughout his career, but he said that opening one during the pandemic has had its share of challenges.
“We did what we could as a company and as a business,” Hornsby said, referring to when the CDC put out their guidelines for restaurants, “to make sure that whatever it was that we were doing, that we were adhering to all of the guidelines that the CDC put forth.”
Both restaurants did a virtual inspection with DHEC prior to opening. Both sent videos, pictures, and Facetimed with inspectors during a walkthrough of the restaurant. They both will have to do the same procedure again with a follow-up inspection after they have been open for so long.
Cauthen explained that the most difficult problem he faced was staffing issues. He said that some of his staff was collecting unemployment and wouldn’t help him in his time of need. Cauthen then told them that if they wanted to keep a job after the unemployment stops, they would need to help him with opening tasks with the new restaurant.
However, Hornsby did not face the same issue at Walk-On’s.
“I don’t know the full one hundred percent reason behind [why staffing wasn’t an issue],” Hornsby said. “What I do know is as a company, as Walk-On’s, we try to create a culture where the team members want to be here. […] So, I know that has kept a lot of our staff.”
Both are optimistic about the future for their restaurants stating that business has been steady despite only be able to run at fifty percent capacity.
Here is the list of restaurants that have opened in the last three months:
- Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux near Carolina Forest in June.
- Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar and Grill in North Myrtle Beach in July.
- World of Beer in North Myrtle Beach in July.
- Crazy Pollo Grill in Myrtle Beach in April.
- Barefoot Market & Cafe in North Myrtle Beach
- Crooked Hammock Brewpub in North Myrtle Beach in July. (Main restaurant has not opened; food stand is open.)
- Soho in North Myrtle Beach in July.
- Local in Pawleys Island in August.