Rich Howells

VIDEO: Backyard Ale House in Scranton talks about real impact of COVID-19 on bars and restaurants

VIDEO: Backyard Ale House in Scranton talks about real impact of COVID-19 on bars and restaurants
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This week’s news that Governor Tom Wolf will allow Pennsylvania bars and restaurants to reopen at 50 percent capacity on Jan. 4 was welcomed after the latest shutdown led to another difficult month for the industry, but being able to welcome customers back inside again doesn’t mean their problems are over.

The true impact of the coronavirus pandemic on small businesses and how mitigation was handled this year can’t be understood without first talking to those who were most affected, so Scranton video production company TwentyFiveEight Studios sat down with Patrick Nasser, co-owner of the Backyard Ale House, for an honest conversation about what his place has been through and the struggles that the public doesn’t always see.

The description of the 16-minute video reads:

Backyard Ale House has been a fixture of the downtown Scranton bar and restaurant community for 12 years. Whether it’s to meet friends for a drink or to grab a meal with your family, Backyard Ale House has been the reliable staple to count on. Co-owner Patrick Nasser tells their story. This is just one story of many. This is their story.

On March 17th, 2020, the state of Pennsylvania ordered a statewide shutdown of all “nonessential” business, including nonessential stores, gyms, salons, bars, and restaurants, except for takeout offerings. Almost 9 months later, these businesses are still struggling with no reasonable help in sight.

While Wolf also announced that he has approved more grant money for businesses affected by COVID-19, those funds are often snatched up quickly and may not be enough to save every business that requires aid to stay afloat as debt piles up. Operating at limited capacity under heavy restrictions (like alcohol sales ending at 11 p.m.) is not a sustainable business model.

The virus is very real, however, as doctors, nurses, and those who have contracted COVID-19 can confirm, and the Backyard Ale House has responded to that despite its own hardships. The bar voluntarily shut down for a few days when an employees was exposed to a confirmed case of COVID outside of the business, and on Christmas morning, Backyard Chef James Bodnar offered a free hot takeout breakfast to anyone in need, and employees volunteered their time to hand out the food as well as clothing, toys, and nonperishable food items that were donated.

Nasser feels that bars and restaurants have been blamed too often for the spread of the virus while crowded stores like Walmart operate with little oversight, but their generosity and commitment to the community show that small businesses are often part of the solution.

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