The televisions above the bar at the Stratford Pub in Avondale Estates are dark. Chairs are on tabletops, and the only food being prepared here these days is put in to-go boxes and carried out the door.
James Maggard is the owner of this neighborhood sports bar, which opened on New Year’s Day 2018. He says being a takeout restaurant is just not who they are.
“It’s difficult to be the town hall bar for the community,” Maggard said of the challenge of running the place during the coronavirus pandemic. “To be that place to where everyone kind of congregates as well as comes together for Braves games, Atlanta United games.”
Maggard says business began dropping off right about the time sporting events were canceled because of the coronavirus. A few days later, it became clear that being that community-gathering place would be impossible. So the Stratford switched to takeout only.
“It was definitely a learning curve,” said Maggard. “We have to-go orders, but the main reason we have to-go boxes is to box up food that is prepared to be eaten in a restaurant. So kind of setting up an assembly line.”
But being unable to serve customers inside the bar led to a sharp decline in revenue.
“We were fortunate in the sense that we were able to close down and still meet payroll two weeks out,” said Maggard. “So everyone has recently been paid.”
But going forward with only to-go orders, Maggard says he’ll need some help.
That’s why he’s working with his bank to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. It’s a federally backed loan that helps businesses pay their employees during the coronavirus pandemic and was part of the federal relief package passed by Congress.
Businesses can use the loans to meet payroll, pay rent, utilities and interest on mortgages. And if they use the loan to make payroll for at least eight weeks, the Small Business Administration says it will be fully forgiven.
Lenders can start processing loan applications Friday, and Maggard says he’ll be ready to go.
“The application is four pages, not 400. So, my initial reaction is that this is going to be an easy process. However, we’re not far enough into the process to actually say one way or the other,” he said.
He hopes the loan will provide a temporary lifeline until it’s safe for people to come together again for a beer, a bite to eat and a ballgame on TV.