Scott West had “five levels of reason” for why he wouldn’t reopen his four Market Square restaurants and bars. But he now has reason to believe it’s almost time for his staff to get back to work.
West has announced plans to reopen his family-owned businesses, starting with Tommy Trent’s on Sept. 3, and is looking toward the grand opening of the long awaited Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens.
Keeping a close eye on COVID
West has been evaluating the state of COVID-19 over the past few months and, in some ways, his pandemic predictions came true.
West told Knox News in June one reason for not reopening was the possibility of having to close if cases increased.
Earlier this month, Knox County told recently reopened bars they would have to shut their doors again. That order later was rescinded and replaced with a curfew.
West also mentioned that he was not crazy about asking a cook, “who is making crazy money on the couch watching Netflix,” to come back to work — especially in a potentially unsafe environment.
West told Knox News on Thursday that recent changes to unemployment is one of the main reasons he decided it’s time to reopen.
“Also, UT is in session and every other place is already open and we’ve been 100% closed for 6 months, so we felt like it was time to begin in that regard as well,” he said in a text message.
Why start with Tommy Trent’s?
West picked Tommy Trent’s as the first business to reopen because it has the highest ratio of outdoor-to-indoor seating, according to a Facebook post.
“Coming up with a phased reopening plan was the most important part of the process, though,” West said. “We met with the managers and came up with this Phased Reopening Plan, a way to essentially dip a toe in the pool before we started diving into the deep end.”
Tommy Trent’s has a patio, and seating is available in the center of Market Square thanks to a new city permit.
The business is focused on food, has better options for social distancing and has earlier hours, with more customers in the daytime than at night, West said.
Tommy Trent’s also doesn’t have live music, which can draw a crowd at West’s other businesses.
The business will open at 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and at noon on the weekends.
Phased reopening lets us ‘back away’
The Lost Tavern will have similar hours when it reopens Sept. 17, except the weekends would start at 11 a.m.
But before that, West will evaluate his reopening on Sept. 10 to figure out the best way to proceed with a phased reopening of Preservation Pub and Scruffy City Hall.
“Phasing our reopening also allows us to back away if something happens regarding a surge in COVID cases,” West said.
Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens might be part of West’s phased reopening plan, although finishing touches on the new bar could force the grand opening a month or more away.
The highly anticipated bar is a next-door neighbor to Preservation Pub and is adorned with crystals across four stories.
West previously told Knox News that opening the bar was a redemption story of sorts, after getting busted for his role in a marijuana operation caused him to lose his World Grotto bar.
It left a “crystal chip” on his shoulder, he said, and “I want people’s jaws to drop when they walk in.”
A ‘myriad’ of safety precautions
West has been making plans for how to keep his staff and customers safe since mid-March.
West has a “myriad” of safety protocols to implement, according to his post, including mandatory masks.
His businesses are well-stocked with hand sanitizer, and he purchased tons of throw-away plastic cups.
The latter is not so eco-friendly but, “in the age of corona,” it’s a better choice if it means keeping people safe, West said.
Employees will be told to wash their hands and clean surfaces “obsessively,” the post said, and tables will be arranged in a way to ensure proper social distancing.