Court Square Café in Covington, like all restaurants across the state, is closed except for take-out and delivery as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

During a time of social distancing and the government-mandated closure of dining areas, the restaurant industry is already feeling the pinch.

“We’ve already lost about 80 percent of our business at this point,” said Sarah Crocker who, with her family, owns Wells Kitchen in Brighton. “We’ve having to get very creative.”

Like every other restaurant, Wells is offering curbside take-out and delivery. Crocker said they’d deliver just about anywhere, but asks patrons remember to tip the waiters and waitresses making deliveries.

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“They’re losing a lot right now.”

Wells catered lunches for Tipton Christian Academy every day and, Crocker said, that was about 30 percent of their business each day. The fruit they’d already ordered for the lunches is being sent with take-out orders so it doesn’t go to waste.

“Somebody’s got to eat it,” she said.

They’ve already had to cut back on hours for wait staff, cleaned out freezers, unplugged everything they can to save electricity and members of the family are working at FasTimes, too.

“We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to keep the lights on,” said Crocker.

The restaurant was initially opened by her grandmother, Jennie Louise Wells Crocker, in the 1970s – her great-grandparents owned the longtime grocery store Wells Grocery, across the street – and her mother and siblings reopened it in May 1999.

It’s a staple in the town of Brighton and once she doesn’t want to see closed.

“We’re doing what we can, doing whatever we have to do to save money,” she said. “We’re still here, we’re gonna get through this. We ask you to work with us through this and we’ll figure it out together.”

Ignacio Espinoza, the owner of three Breakfast Cove locations in Tipton County, said he’s also doing all he can to stay open and keep his employees working.

“I’m trying to give the most hours I can to everyone every day,” he said. “I’m gonna lose money just keeping them so they can make money.”

His Covington location has been opened for a number of years south of Dyersburg State Community College. The Atoka location opened more recently near Tracy and Rosemark. It’s his Munford location, however, that is still under construction at the corner of Hwy. 51 and Watson, the former location of Down Home Café.

“I’m gonna let it sit until all this is gone,” he said.

Like Wells, Espinoza said he’s lost an estimated 80-90 percent of his regular volume and he doesn’t anticipate things turning around very quickly.

“You think about how this is going to affect the economy. Even after this outbreak people are going to have no money. We’re going to manage the best we can.”

In Covington, Becky Spitzer said Court Square Café had “a good number” of take-out orders Tuesday.

“It’s not normal, but I’m happy,” she said, noting she may keep the diner until 6 p.m.

Restaurants are encouraging people to continue to order food for delivery or take-out or even purchasing gift cards for later use. Many people are sharing restaurant menus and hours through social media in an effort to help promote the businesses already feeling the losses.

Rosemary Bridges, the executive director of the South Tipton County Chamber of Commerce, called Tuesday “Take-out Tuesday,” encouraging people to order out and post photos of themselves patronizing local restaurants.

“We’re trying to do all we can to help them,” she said.

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