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BELLA VISTA -- In the face of a potential covid-19 outbreak, retail and food-service workers are taking precautions to keep themselves and customers safe while they're out and dealing with the general public.

Mike Hudgins, owner of Papa Mike's, said his restaurant has shifted to strictly doing curbside pickup and catering.

"This is a very high-risk area ... We're doing everything we possibly can," he said.

People can call in orders, pay by card and pick them up outside the restaurant. All of these steps minimize contact, he said, and reduce the likelihood of transmission.

Workers are sanitizing before walking out with orders and again as they return to the restaurant, washing their hands frequently and going above the sanitary requirements restaurants typically abide by, he explained.

"We're held to a pretty high standard to begin with," he said.

If anyone gets sick, the entire crew will need to quarantine, he said.

But with people staying home, he said, business has taken a sharp dive.

"It hasn't slowed down business; it's killed business," Hudgins said, noting he'd only seen two customers by late Monday morning.

This week will be a trial run, he said, and if business doesn't pick up enough to pay workers, he expects to close until the threat of outbreak has passed.

"Unfortunately that's what a lot of businesses are going to do just to try to survive," he said.

On the other end of Riordan Road, Bella Vista Wine & Spirits has also shifted to a curbside model. The front door is closed, but they're accepting call-in and drive-through orders, with open hours trimmed some, leaving the shop open from noon to 6 p.m.

One worker, Kim Ormsby, said the past few weeks have been extremely busy, with people stocking up on drinks for a potential quarantine period and buying vodka for homemade hand sanitizer. Ormsby said the liquor typically isn't strong enough for that task.

Business was more than double what the shop typically sees this time of year, with some peak hours beating out New Year's Eve 2019, she said.

"Sure it's going to get less and less as things get worse and worse," she said.

Some workers have concerns about losing hours on the clock as the shop's hours are scaled back, while others who have health concerns and may be particularly vulnerable to covid-19 have opted to stay home, she said, and there's a lot of concern over long lines at the unemployment office.

The workers who can be present have been sanitizing everything constantly, she said, ensuring their hands and workspace stay as clean as possible to prevent any potential transmission.

Ormsby also encouraged everyone to be as careful as they can. Bella Vista residents appeared to be stocking up and playing it smart, she said.

Further down the interstate, Allen's Grocery was busy with a short line at each register and temporary baggers loading groceries.

Steve Morrow, the store's manager, said workers are putting in long days while the store struggles to stay supplied.

"Forty-six years in the business, I've never seen anything like this," he said.

Over a one-week period, the store got two delivery trucks and a typical week sees five, he said.

Bleach, toilet paper and paper towels have been rationed, with larger packages getting split up to ensure there's enough for everyone and still selling out, he said.

"We ran out of meat for the first time," Morrow said. "We couldn't get deliveries here."

That particular Saturday, he said, someone with a truck and trailer was kind enough to go pick up several cases of meat from the supplier.

Some workers have been showing up before the store opens and staying past closing time to finish everything, making for a 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift, he said.

"I've got people who are here working 10- to 14-hour days," he said.

Morrow said he's been ordering delivery so workers don't have to leave for meals.

With a dour mood in the air, Morrow said he's been working to keep the store a fun and friendly environment.

"It's a tough ol' frickin' time out there," he said. "I'm just trying to keep people smiling."

But while working to keep a positive attitude, the days are still long and difficult, he said. Concerns about illness can't be on his mind at the store, but he's worried when he gets home, he said.

The store provides essentials people need and can't just close or scale back at a time like this, he said.

"We don't have any choice but to be in the workplace," Morrow said. "We feel like we're emergency workers right now; we have to be here."

Ken and Juanita Phillips, the owners of the Hiwasse Hilton Diner, have served the area since 1988. And like all dine-in restaurants, they are trying to stay open through the covid-19 pandemic to serve their long-time customers and those in need of dine-out service.

They said they would like the public to know they're still open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and will prepare anything from their menu for carry-out. The Hilton's door is unlocked so customers may come in to order takeout or call in to pick up an order through the carry-out window.

NW News on 03/26/2020

Print Headline: Bella Vista workers take precautions, put in hours

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