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Boise restaurants react to 30-day shutdown of city bars and dine-in restaurant services

"I’m fearful that with this latest no dine-in, we’re going to need to close," said Duane Paris, owner of Firenze Pizza in downtown Boise.

BOISE, Idaho — Mayor Lauren McLean on Thursday called for a shutdown of indoor dining in all bars and restaurants in Boise city limits for 30 days as part of an attempt to limit the spread of the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus.  

The closure goes into effect at midnight Friday morning. The shutdown affects dine-in only; takeout, drive-thru, and delivery options will still be allowed.

With the CDC urging people around the U.S. to stay home unless necessary and President Trump recommending gatherings of no more than 10 people, downtown Boise has been fairly quiet for several days. 

That lack of foot traffic is already affecting local businesses.

“I feel like a lot of our business is people just walking by looking for a quick snack so we’re definitely seeing less people walking around," said Chelsea Barr, manager at Pie Hole in downtown. "It’s a little spooky down here right now.”

Firenza Pizza has also seen a drop-off in business with fewer people in downtown. 

“It’s really affecting our day-to-day business," said owner Duane Paris. "We’ve seen our business drop off at least 70% - at nights it’s really dropped off.”

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Firenza Pizza is also in the same building as multiple call centers. Paris said those workers are a huge part of their daily lunch rush and with those people now working from home, that's made a dent in daily business too. 

“What we’ve done all day today for lunch rush we usually do in an hour so we’ve really slowed down,” he said. 

It's not only downtown businesses taking a hit. Other Boise businesses, such as Barbacoa, are also seeing fewer and fewer customers. 

“Friday was off by a bit, Saturday was off by half and now we’re doing one-tenth of our normal numbers,” said Robert Castoro, owner of Barbacoa. 

Now, after McLean's announcement, all Boise restaurants and bars will be facing yet another challenge. 

“I do not take this disruption lightly," McLean said. "I recognize it disrupts our jobs, our lives, the day-to-day activities we all have.”

Castoro said the shut-down of dine-in services will be devastating for the industry as a whole. 

While restaurants can still utilize takeout and delivery orders, many KTVB spoke with rely on dine-in clientele to keep the business afloat. 

RELATED: Restaurant closures and layoffs: The impact of the coronavirus outbreak being felt across the Treasure Valley

“It’ll slow down for sure," Barr said. "Especially with the bars being closed down. We’re open until 3 in the morning and 4 a.m. on the weekends so that’s going to cut into our late night business.”

Firenze Pizza has only been open about a year and a half so Paris said financially, there's a good chance the dine-in closure will lead to a complete restaurant closure for his staff. That would leave 18 employees without a job. 

“A major part of our business is dine-in business, we’re not a major delivery business,” he said. "And my experience is that businesses who aren't already set up for that have a really hard time transitioning to that and making a go of it. So I’m fearful that with this latest no dine-in, we’re going to need to close in the next few days.”

He hopes if that is the case, he'd be able to reopen when things return to normal. 

Barbacoa relies entirely on dine-in customers and its bar because it does not offer takeout or delivery. Castoro said he has 180 employees who are "just like family" so they will not be laid off and his priority is to do all he can to take care of them. Barbacoa staff also faced a challenge in 2010 when a fire completely destroyed the restaurant. 

“It’s going to be devastating but just as we did in the fire, we’re going to take care of our people and whatever subsidization they receive, if its winds up short we’re going to make up the difference so nobody loses their house, cars, anything," Castoro said. 

RELATED: Shelter-in-place order issued for Blaine County residents

While times are tough for many people, Paris said anything community members can do to help small businesses can make a big difference. 

“So just anybody that can help out buying gift cards and ordering online and delivery would be a big help to everybody and just help us stay in business and weather this storm,” he said. 

Many Boise eateries had already closed down their dining rooms ahead of Thursday's announcement. McLean said in her address that she was looking into economic recovery efforts to try and help city-based businesses down the road. 

McLean also added that parking meters in front of Boise restaurants will be disabled to allow for easy food pickup.  

Washington and Oregon's governors have made similar announcements in recent weeks, closing down all bars and restaurants in those states. 

RELATED: Map of Idaho confirmed coronavirus cases: What we know about each confirmed case in Idaho

In the same announcement on Thursday, McLean also said any Boise childcare licences expiring in March and April will be extended for eight weeks. "We are prioritizing childcare licenses to ensure that our public health and safety workers have access to childcare during this time," McLean said. 

Several meetings of Boise commissions and committees have also been suspended for 30 days. 

  • Airport Commission
  • Parks and Recreation Commission   
  • Planning and Zoning Commission
  • Design Review Committee 
  • Historic Preservation Commission 
  • Development and Impact Fee Advisory Committee 
  • Public Works Commission 
  • Arts and History Commission
  • Housing and Community Development Advisory Committee
  • Open Space and Clean Water Advisory Committee 
  • Ethics Commission 
  • Accessible Parking Commission 
  • Neighbors in Need Trust Fund Advisory Board 
  • Building Board of Appeals 
  • Plumbing, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Board 
  • Special Events Team 
  • Electrical Board of Appeal 

We are regularly updating our list of school closures as well as other building, venue and event closures and cancellations. 

RELATED: Coronavirus resources: Testing sites, at-risk grocery hours in the Treasure Valley

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