‘We’re Going To Stick It Out’: View From A Downtown Dublin Restaurant

Jennifer Shaffer owns Deano’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Dublin, Georgia. She said the business challenge of the pandemic has brought the community closer together, even as her restaurant has seen the ‘lowest point,’ following a local spike in coronavirus numbers.

Emma Hurt / WABE

Jennifer Shaffer and her husband, Robert, took over Deano’s Italian restaurant a decade ago in downtown Dublin, Georgia, steps from the Laurens County Courthouse. The Culinary Institute of America graduates have operated several restaurants in the Dublin area since they moved to Georgia in 2008. But Deano’s, she said, “always held its ground.”

In April, WABE spoke with Shaffer about the decision to reopen their restaurant after the coronavirus lockdown. Four months later, Shaffer said they’re weathering their lowest point.

The roller coaster of the pandemic has brought the local business community even closer together, she said in an August interview. “I feel like we’ve gotten through so much. We’ve all stood together. I buy local, she buys local, the next local business owner buys local,” she said.

Shaffer said the restaurant saw a major setback in August after news that the Dublin area reached “red zone” status in terms of coronavirus numbers.

“People have just been scared home again. They’re not even ordering takeout. They’re just staying home,” she said.

To drive up revenue, the Shaffers decided to build a bar and acquire a liquor license, something Jennifer Shaffer has resisted for years to keep the restaurant “family-friendly.”

“We’re probably at the lowest we’ve been throughout the entire pandemic. But we’ve made a huge investment, financially and emotionally, and we’re going to stick it out. We’re not going to give up,” she said.

One late August weekend, she said, her husband and the restaurant’s chef, came home too early on Friday and Saturday. “On Saturday when he showed up at 7:30 p.m., my heart just sank. And I said, ‘Why are you home?’ And he said, ‘Because we have four tables in the whole restaurant.”

“It’s scary. It’s a scary time,” she said.

“I look up and down the street and I’m just praying people can hold on. Just hold on, just hold on, just hold on,” she said of her fellow business owners. “But I know how hard it is. I know what it takes to hold on.”