NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Broadway is closed, no concerts and no parties, no massive gatherings. The busiest and brightest of days have turned to the darkest of nights.
“It’s totally dark, it’s night, a moonless night at that,” says Tom Morales.
Morales owns and operates Acme Feed and Seed, a staple on Lower Broadway, along Broadway and 1st Avenue. Acme was rented out by the NFL for draft parties last April. The place was humming.
“We’ve furloughed our staff so they could continue to have their benefits,” Morales says.
The conversations now, only virtual, and only believable because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that means a new world on the horizon.
“There will be a bunch of startup costs associated with it, and if they mandate 50-percent capacity, are landlords going to say, okay 50-percent rent?” wonders Morales.
He is navigating uncharted waters. Acme’s been shut down since March 12, 360 employees are furloughed. The business has a 90-day contingency, allowing Morales to try to wait out COVID-19.
And yet the silence on the streets is demanding a strategy to make re-opening viable.
“We have to reopen at some point,” he says. “It’s just not like snapping your fingers and you reopen. It may not even be with the same employees if people go on to other jobs in the meantime.”
There will be retraining and recruiting required. Morales says the whole business model will have to change for venues built on volume, like Acme. He’ll lose money should the mayor call to limit occupants. Acme won’t open.
“Everybody rushing out, and rushing back, could be a pitfall that sets us back another four to five months.”
Much like it’s stood out along the strip, Acme may stand alone once Broadway returns.
“Until people can breathe and take air, and feel like you’re not getting a virus, there’s not going to be a normal,” Morales says.
He is planning for vastly different operating procedures. “Every touchpoint, every contact point will have to be addressed and looked at.”
Reusable menus may be replaced by apps and further protection for patrons and employees.
“Think about this when you come in and greet somebody at the hostess stand,” Morales says. “We have to have a plexiglass shield up now, things like that.”
Perception will be equal to reality. Tourists, likely also cash strapped, Morales says, must have their safety assured because they may decide Nashville’s future. A future Acme is ready to wait for, to get this right.
“There’s no sense in bringing our workers in, getting them sick, getting shut back down. It really has to be the doctors and scientists that tell us what to do.”
How will one of Nashville’s most vibrant areas rebound? Bar owners open up about their concerns as News 2 looks at Broadway on the Brink. Click here to read more.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.