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“Losses are outstanding:” bar owners hit hard during shut down

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Bars are reopening after 67 days of mandatory coronavirus shut downs.

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Empty bar stools and dance floors are constant reminders of a complete lack of revenue. So Club Charley's tore them out.

For 67 days, Governor Brad Little required bars to remain closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Jon Piersol is the managing director for Club Charley's in Pocatello, a popular spot for Center Street bar crawlers and the southeast Idaho LGBTQ community.

Like other local bars, Club Charley's had no source of revenue.

“We’ve been at zero sales. I’ve actually been in the negative, or we have, due to the fact that I’ve continued to employ people,” Peirsol said. “The losses are outstanding."

Piersol continued employing people while he took on massive renovations to the bar. Despite the lack of income, he chose to invest in the bar's future.

Club Charley's did not reopen on Saturday along with most other community bars.

“Regardless of what Governor Little says, we’re going to air six to eight weeks minimum on the safe side,” Piersol said.

Peirsol plans to open some time in the summer once renovations are finished.

McDermotts Bar on Highway 30 took a different route during the shutdown. Owner Justin Kline started hosting tailgate parties in the bar parking lot during the mandatory closure to bring in revenue.

“Coming up with the idea of tailgating was based of off sheer necessity,” Kline said.

Patrons brought their own chairs and sat outside while bartenders served them. But on May 30, Governor Little enacted stage three to reopen Idaho, giving the green light for bars to serve again.

“It was nice to be able to turn my signs on and pull the shades open,” Kline said.

But reopening now doesn't make up for the months of no income.

“This was hard for us bar owners. We really weren’t given a lot of guidance. We had to figure out on our own how to survive,” Kline said.

Both Piersol and Kline felt there was not enough guidance from officials on how to make it through a mandatory shut down.

“The thing that was a shock was that the state shut us down, but the state has no plans to reimburse all of us bars for our liquor license. The fees that we have to accumulate and pay on a yearly basis as a privilege to own and operate bars,” Piersol said.

Bars are asked to follow public health guidelines as they reopen. You can read them here. But social distancing is largely up to the customer to self-enforce.

“In a bar, there’s a way to social distance. Some customers do social distance, I see that. And I have a lot of customers that don’t care,” Kline said.

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Emma Iannacone

Emma is a reporter for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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1 Comment

  1. Interestingly, I have a couple of friends (here in Idaho Falls) who own restaurants. They, too, have had difficulties with lack of business income during this time. They BOTH, however, used the ‘stimulus package’ small business loans to retain employees. I am at a loss to explain why Mr. Piersol supposedly ‘stood’ the losses, rather than apply for the (forgivable) small business loans in a timely manner. I am quite ambiguous in re the whole ‘tailgating’ Mr. Kline came up with (because of two close friends who–over the last couple of decades–were slaughtered by VERY drunk drivers) because of the propensity towards causing even MORE DUI deaths than we currently have, but at least he TRIED something. The reality is that–other than the hard-core/power drinkers type, most people tend towards drinking, et al, with what was ONCE ‘disposable money’. It is VERY likely that the bar/hospitality trade will be a bit longer getting back on their feet than, say, tire stores, grocery stores, etc.

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