As Restaurants Reopen, Arlington Hangout Hangs On

J. Gilligan's Bar and Grill has managed to avoid employee layoffs

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With restaurants ready to reopen Friday for limited inside service, a longtime Arlington hangout is setting its own course.

J. Gilligan’s Bar and Grill has managed to keep the kitchen open and the drinks flowing with to-go orders.

"We were very worried at the beginning. We didn't know what would happen,” said 10-year employee Juana Coreno.

But owner Randy Ford kept employees on the payroll with help from a federal loan.

"It's been a win-win for them and us to be able to keep a little something going,” Ford said.

Bartender Sarah Deleon said her phone has been ringing from customers she hasn’t been able to see in person.

"It's been weird,” Deleon said. “A lot of my customers have been keeping in touch because they're lonely too. They miss telling us about their problems."

Even though to-go orders have been steady, business is down 65%, Ford said.

He’s used the last several weeks to paint and spruce up the his restaurant.

And now, they're getting ready to welcome customers inside again with a focus on cleanliness and an emphasis on social distancing.

Every wall is covered with a sign reminding customers to stay six feet apart.

Under state guidelines, the restaurant can fill to only 25% capacity.

Employees are worried about their new roles enforcing the new rules.

"I feel like it is going to be hard to keep people apart,” Deleon said.

The owner has learned from all this.

He’ll keep the drive-thru going, which he said has been a surprising success.

"You have to find a silver lining every now and then," Ford said.

A silver lining. But the storm clouds still threaten.

"Sometimes I think it's getting better since we're kind of reopening,” Coreno said. “But then I'm like what if we get a wave? What will happen next?"

"Who knows what is going to happen? Nobody knows,” Deleon said. “All we can do it hope for the best."

For small businesses and customers alike, it’s all unchartered territory, in uncertain times.

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