TROY — As Vic Christopher, president of Clark House Hospitality, spoke in his latest video on LinkedIn, the silent walls of his Tavern Bar were behind him. Tavern Bar hasn’t opened its doors since New York went on PAUSE in mid-March, when the first inklings of COVID-19’s ruthlessness became apparent.
Christopher is optimistic about the future despite the predicament companies like his find themselves in. The outspoken personality behind many of Troy’s most famous places, including Little Peck’s and Lucas Confectionery, is no stranger to being throttled by COVID-19 restrictions.
“Luckily, we have The Grocery, which is considered an essential business and we can move much of our business through that model,” Christopher said in the video. “Many restaurants with a traditional model, especially those in New York City, will probably just go on hiatus in the next month or two and open up once spring comes.”
None of Clark House’s businesses are open for sit-down dining. While revenue has taken a hit, Christopher expressed gratitude that Clark House, which owns all of the property its companies operate out of, is getting its mortgage payments deferred for six months. Christopher added the new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) payments will go a long way toward helping many Troy and state businesses, including his.
Christopher also pondered if small cities like Troy will be forced to declare municipal bankruptcy in the coming year; because so much revenue has been stalled by the pandemic, he feels many property owners will end up abandoning properties altogether. He also questioned if we will see restaurants trading places, or moving up and down the road depending on the circumstances.
The restaurateur spoke on the use of the internet for customers. Christopher said his staff worked hard to beef up its website once the pandemic began, as they expected more people to use it as a way to connect with the company. He wasn’t wrong; according to a study by the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of Americans have considered internet use “essential” during the pandemic and average household gigabyte usage has jumped over two gigabytes higher than pre-pandemic numbers. Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have seen an uptick of 27 and 26 percent of users respectively. Business channels are also up, with Zoom calls increasing 2,900 percent and Slack receiving 80 percent more love than before.
Christopher is relieved Clark House will weather the pandemic, but he’s concerned many of his peers will not be so fortunate. Since state COVID-19 restrictions began loosening up in late spring, restaurants have worked to recoup lost wages by offering outdoor dining. As the weather continues to decline and the virus hits the state harder than ever, restaurants are facing the ongoing plight of keeping sanitization protocols on the offensive while still bringing enough customers through the door to stay open.
“On the bright side, we [are through] December,” he concluded, “but I continue to think many places will be shutting down, at least temporarily, until the weather starts getting warmer.”