Marion County restaurants look to future following COVID-19 and curfews

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana restaurants are looking ahead to June 14, as that’s the beginning of stage 4 of Governor Eric Holcomb’s plan to reopen the state from coronavirus restrictions. For Marion County establishments, it’s been a longer ride following both COVID-19 and protest curfew restrictions from Mayor Joe Hogsett.

“Up here on the north side it is difficult being shut down for three months from COVID to have beautiful weather, and patrons who want to come out and enjoy things here,” explains Michael Cranfill, proprietor of the District Tap, talking about recent curfews. “We are dealing with a lot of tragedy, and there’s a lot of anger downtown, and rightly so.”

The District Tap has a location a few minutes from the Fashion Mall and another location downtown. Cranfill understands the necessity of the curfews for the downtown area, but he believes it did not need to be county wide.

“If the curfew started at 9 or 9:30 that would allow a lot of people to have a dinner service, and get home safely after,” says Cranfill.

His north side business had to cancel a customer’s private party due to the curfew. The restaurant started to close around 7:30, yet protests around Marion County were allowed to continue well past the 8 p.m. curfew if they remained peaceful.

Cranfill is trying to start a movement that encourages white Hoosiers to “Show Up And Listen” during the protests.

“For us who have been privileged in this country, I think It’s time for us to show up and listen to what the protestors are saying,” details Cranfill. “I think it’s time to hear their message, and get down there, and actively just listen.”

While the riots were happening, Cranfill lost his friend Chris Beaty. The former Indiana University football player turned local businesses man was shot and killed amidst the unrest.

“Across the plywood that’s on the front of our restaurant on Georgia and South Meridian, I put ‘Peace for Beaty,’ and I’m hoping he is an inspirational force to bring healing, calm, and understanding,” says Cranfill.

“90% percent of our staff has gone to protest for sure,” says Adam Sweet, founder of King Dough near downtown. “We have supported them in all of it.”

The employees at King Dough can see the protest barricades from their street. At one point, Sweet opened the restaurant later to allow his employees to protest without affecting their shifts.

“If they were like, ‘Hey, we want to go down and be part of it,’ there’s no backlash. Go for it! Do your thing!” details Sweet.

He believes the curfews were, “Pretty pointless,” adding that the majority of the protesting was downtown centric.

“We close before curfew, but we are not out of here with clean up until after curfew,” describes Sweet who told customers no orders at 7:15 p.m. on curfew nights.

Despite the financial hit from COVID-19 shutdowns, and having to close early the past weekends, Sweet and his employees held a fundraiser to support people who were arrested during the protests.

“The Bail Project, we donated $2,000,” says Sweet. “We just did all margherita pizza sales for 48 hours will go to all legally, innocent people to make sure their legal right to protest and have their voices heard are recognized and taken care of.”

Sweet believes it may take a year for in-house dining to return to normal following the pandemic.

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