“Cocktails were prohibited. We got a little frozen machine that could make cocktails using a rosé wine slushy, basically adult snow cones. Those slushies ended up kind of saving our business."
“When the governor said we needed to shut down in March, we thought it was going to be for six weeks. We took the liquor home in case there was any looting and we stayed busy by making some improvements and adding a sound system. But as it went on, we were like that probably wasn't the best idea. If we have to vacate the premises due to, you know, not being able to get enough business.
We stayed shut out until June 1. Our landlord had given us a three month deferment and June 1 marked the beginning of the first month that we were no longer deferred.
A lot of restaurants opened May 22, so we thought well, if they are safe enough to open, our private club should be able to serve safely. We weren’t allowed to serve inside the building or have people congregate at tables outside the building, so we transitioned to retail. Cocktails were prohibited, so we sold six packs of beer, bottles of wine, Buzzballz, and we got a little frozen machine that could make cocktails using a rosé wine slushy in different flavors, basically adult snow cones. They were really a hit, as it was hot all summer. Those slushies ended up kind of saving our business.
The retail sales enabled us to pay our rent and that was pretty much it. That was the goal, to keep this space, because with the Colonial Inn opening up across the street, we know we have a great location.
The frustrating part was that our governor said it was okay for restaurants, distilleries, breweries and hotels to serve alcohol, but not us private clubs. So even currently, you can go inside a restaurant and have the same drink that you are not allowed to have inside here at Yonder. When people saw that we were open for retail sales, some would ask us to make cocktails for them. We said we couldn’t because of the restrictions, they would walk down to the restaurant next door and have that same cocktail inside there. The governor kept saying science and data were leading him to that decision. But he never would reveal the science and data that would justify that decision. He would never come up with any alternative to allow us to exist. He would never come up with financial programs like some of the other industries enjoyed.
On October 2, the governor allowed bars to have outdoor seating at 30% of capacity. We didn't really have outdoor capability at the time, but we talked to the town and the town helped us come up with some creative ways around it, which was great. We are forever indebted to them. And we talked to our neighbors, who have allowed us to move some tables in front of their space because we have opposite hours. Their coffee shop closes at 3pm and we open at 4pm.
We'd be dead in the water if it wasn't for our community, which includes our town government and our neighbors, here on King Street.
The support of our community has been amazing. When we were just selling retail, people could go and get a six pack of beer probably cheaper from Weaver Street or Food Lion, but they would come in here every week and continue to buy six packs and leave a tip, which was never asked for, but they would leave these exorbitant tips to help us make it. The first few times it happened, it caught me in the chest, you know, because, like I said, there was no federal help, there was no state help. We were never eligible for any of it. We couldn’t even get unemployment because we own the place. The only help we ever received was from these people coming in here and keeping us in business.
There is still uncertainty, of course. Who knows how long the outdoor restrictions will remain based on North Carolina's numbers. Who knows how long we're going to be allowed to operate. We bought space heaters so if we're allowed to continue seating outdoors, you know, we want to make sure it's warm and comfortable out there. We've even had a lot of our regular customers say that even when we're allowed to serve inside, they don't want to come inside. They enjoy coming here because we're taking care of them outside and they feel safer. So with that in mind, we got the heaters. They want to sit outside.
We are now doing live music outside. Anybody walking down the street can hear it and if you're sitting down having drinks, you can hear it. We also restarted our comedy nights. Jeremy Alder, the local comedian, did a show and killed it. Everybody was socially distant, we had all the tables set, and everyone was masked. And people had a great time. I was stopped by several people afterwards they were like, I haven't laughed that hard in months. Oh, and they're like, thank you so much, that made us feel really, really good.” -- Eryk, Yonder - Southern Cocktails and Brew #NorthCarolina