NewsGreat Falls News


Great Falls restaurants hit by coronavirus restrictions

Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 20:10:47-04

GREAT FALLS — Across the nation, the restaurant industry is taking a huge hit due to restrictions caused by efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and Great Falls restaurants are feeling the pain. On Friday morning, Governor Steve Bullock issued state-wide restrictions on restaurants, specifically ordering them to close their dining rooms for at least one week (see full details below).

Many restaurants are now beefing up their take-out and delivery options, but the toll is already mounting.

At the O’Haire Motor Inn in downtown Great Falls, which is also home to the Sip 'N Dip Lounge and Clark & Lewie's Restaurant, general manager Sandra Johnson said, “As of today, we have laid off 29 employees, unfortunately, but we have no choice. Employees that have worked here for 25, 30 years, they no longer can come to work. You know, it's heart-breaking. We can’t take care of our work family. You know we are doing our best to keep the doors open, that’s all we can do."

She assured us that the iconic Piano Pat is OK: “We have Piano Pat sequestered nicely and she’s safe."

Thares says this week normally is a booming time: “This is typically a week we should be 100% full house, Great Falls should be rocking and rolling this week with Western Art Week, and it’s a ghost town, so everyone is making adjustments."

When asked if the take-out orders are enough to sustain the business, she replied, “No, you can’t possibly make up the volume that a restaurant would do with to-go orders. We’ve lost almost $80,000 dollars’ worth of catering through the end of April and that’s not just something you make up."

Click here to see a list of Great Falls restaurants that are now focused on providing take-out, delivery, and curb-side service.

On Friday morning, Bullock announced measures to close dine-in food service and alcoholic beverage businesses and other activities that pose enhanced health risks, effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020. The order expires at 11:59 p.m. on March 27, 2020, the same day that school closures are set to expire, though the date will likely be extended.

The order states that the following places are closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:

  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other similar establishments offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.
  • Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Cigar bars.
  • Health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools and hot springs, indoor facilities at ski areas, climbing gyms, fitness studios, and indoor recreational facilities.
  • Movie and performance theaters, nightclubs, concert halls, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and music halls.
  • Casinos.

The places subject to the order are permitted and encouraged to offer food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service, and to use precautions in doing so to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing. Customers may order and pay by telephone or online from a retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the State of Montana. A retailer or manufacturer licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the state of Montana may deliver for sale the alcoholic beverages for which it is licensed. Delivery must be conducted by the licensee’s employees over the age of 21 and age of the purchaser and recipient must be verified at the time of delivery. The purchased alcohol must be hand-delivered to the purchaser. In offering food or beverage, a place subject to this section may permit up to five members of the public at one time inside for the purpose of picking up their food or beverage orders, so long as those individuals are at least six feet apart from one another while on premises.

The restrictions imposed by this order do not apply to any of the following:

  • Establishments that offer food and beverage not for on-premises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the establishments restricted above.
  • Room service in hotels.
  • Health care facilities, residential care facilities, university dining facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.
  • Crisis shelters or similar institutions.
  • Airport concessionaires.
  • Military dining facilities or military food operations.
  • Any facilities necessary for the response to the emergency, including schools providing necessary meal services to children.
  • All of the above-named facilities and establishments should adopt appropriate social distancing practices to avoid the spread of disease, to the extent practicable.

The state-wide order comes after several counties and town imposed similar restrictions earlier this week.