A sign at Main Street Tap and Grill on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021 alerts customers of a temporary closure due to a staff shortage and COVID-19 cases. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign at Main Street Tap and Grill on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021 alerts customers of a temporary closure due to a staff shortage and COVID-19 cases. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Businesses balance COVID during summer surge

Doors start closing again due to increasing peninsula case counts.

Businesses on the central peninsula have been in a state of non-stop adaptation throughout the pandemic with some now closing their doors again because of an influx of positive COVID cases.

In Homer, the community is bearing the brunt of this summer’s surge as seven businesses temporarily shut down this week after employees tested positive.

Main Street Tap and Grill in Kenai opened Friday after a two-week temporary closure because of a staffing and product shortage, as well as a few in-house positive COVID cases.

Anna Lott, the now-manager and former owner of Main Street, said she’d rather close for a definite amount of time than have irregular business hours and risk customer disappointment.

She said Friday that the grill has been hanging on by its teeth for over a year, and that the pandemic hasn’t been easy on business. In nine years, Lott said, they hadn’t closed for a single day of the week, but the restaurant is no longer open on Mondays or Tuesdays.

For most of August the employees at the Flats Bistro on Kalifornsky Beach Road have been handling a lack of work because of positive COVID cases and staffing shortages, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.

On Facebook, the restaurant has posted a number of times about the struggle to keep normal business hours for the first two weeks of August.

Then on Aug. 13, a post alerted followers of a longer closure at the Flats.

“We shut down when one of our kitchen staff had symptoms of COVID,” the post says. “After having everyone tested we found more of our staff have been infected with the virus.”

The post then states that the employees who tested positive didn’t have severe illness, and the bistro is set to reopen on Aug. 25.

The Flats owner hadn’t returned requests for comment as of press time.

Some other local businesses are trying to minimize the risk of spread in an effort to remain open.

Rafael Gonzalez at Acapulco Mexican Restaurant said that while he and his team haven’t had to shut down because of COVID cases, they are still trying to operate as safely as possible.

“We’re still protecting the people,” Gonzalez said Friday.

The Acapulco staff are using masks and trying to distance customer tables to avoid much close contact. Gonzalez said that earlier in the pandemic some staff got slightly sick, but now all but a couple of the staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Acapulco has also seen a staffing shortage. Gonzalez said they’ve had to close one day a week to give employees more of a break.

Niko Nikolich, the owner of Moose Is Loose in Soldotna, said they haven’t changed their mitigation measures, but the staff is working to keep the shop clean for customers.

“Sanitizing, sanitizing, sanitizing,” he said via phone Friday.

Nikolich also said he hasn’t had an employee get sick.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Social Services reported two deaths and 471 new COVID cases statewide, including 36 in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The region is considered high risk for transmission of COVID-19.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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