NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For more than two decades, places like Fido in Hillsboro Village have been a staple for the community. It was built to be a gathering place for the city and that’s exactly the kind of business the owner says shouldn’t open in this COVID-19 environment.
“The first line of my first business plan says we want to create a gathering place for all of Nashville and that’s exactly the kind of business that we don’t want in this city right now or in the country right now. Gathering places are part of the problem,” Bob Bernstein told News 2.
Keeping the doors closed to his more than a half dozen cafes and restaurants create a difficult economic reality, but Bernstein said the decision was also rather simple for the health and safety of the community.
“From a health standpoint, I just don’t see how things are different than they were last week or the week before. I see the numbers going up and I drive around and go to shops or just watch restaurants operate from the outside and see lots of customers hanging out just in groups with no masks, no distancing, no anything so from a health standpoint I just don’t think we are ready,” said Bernstein.
With the current restrictions of dining spaces only opening at 50 percent, he said his decision is also a practical one.
“The restrictions that restaurants have to operate under right now legitimately so, make it very difficult to operate a business profitably.”
With only his Bongo wholesale roasting operation open, Bernstein has cut his staff from 157 to 4.
“I feel for a lot of people out there right now. It’s going to hurt us; my family our investors hard, but not as hard as other people.”
Bernstein plans on his small businesses making it to the other side of the pandemic, but he knows his decision to remain at a standstill can’t last long.
“For me, I’m trying to do the right thing for my customers, employees, and community by staying closed and I can afford to do that operationally for a few months but I don’t know after that what’s going to happen,” said Bernstein.
While he doesn’t know how or when he may be able to reopen, he does know when the time comes that his places won’t look the same.
“I’m proud of what we’ve built over 27 years. Now, I need to kind of look at it again and say what are we for the next 27 years.”
Bernstein is also concerned for the future of Nashville as COVID-19 is just the latest in a number of challenges small businesses like his have faced. He pointed to the flood, the ice storm, and tornados, as well as increases in rent and competition.
“The cumulative effect I’m afraid of what it’s going to do to the look, taste, and feel of Nashville. I think the local flavor and feeling of Nashville that I came to love, you know I decided to make it my home 30 years ago. It’s changing drastically and it’s going to change even more.”