BAR HARBOR — Even as town got much busier over the July Fourth weekend than it has been so far this season, some of its largest restaurants are staying shuttered.
Kristi and Jeremy Bond, owners of CherrySTONES restaurant at the corner of Main and Mount Desert streets, announced June 10 that it wouldn’t be opening this year. There are not yet plans to open the nearby Bar Harbor Beer Works, Carmen Verandah and One Off Pub, also part of the Bonds’ FishMaine restaurant group, either.
“We winterize both the CherrySTONES and the Beer Works building,” Kristi Bond told the Islander. “It costs a lot to just open them up.”
They’re both such big buildings, she said, “you still need a lot of staff because of the area they have to cover. We can’t have an upstairs deck and an outside, you can’t be all those places unless there’s people everywhere. And then the social distancing with staff makes it so you have to only have so many people on.”
Last season, FishMaine had 247 employees across CherrySTONES, Beer Works, Carmen’s, Jalapeno’s and the Fish House Grill. This year, with only Jalapeno’s and the Fish House open, and with limited capacity, the company has fewer than 40.
“I have some really key employees that go to Sugarloaf in the winter and they kept saying, ‘Should we come? Should we move? Should we pay rent? What if we get down there and we can’t make a living?’” she said.
“It’s just been really hard to make decisions because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
With the new cleaning and masking requirements, and tables farther apart, servers are “working for their money so much harder than they ever have,” Bond said. “And wearing a mask, especially in the kitchen, is hot and it’s uncomfortable. It’s challenging for everyone.”
The new takeout window and delivery service at Jalapeno’s have been much busier than the restaurant crew expected, she said. “The whole cocktails-to-go thing has helped that be a funner experience for people.”
FishMaine has also applied and qualified for some of the business relief programs.
“We’re grateful that our bank is a local bank and we can work with them directly to hopefully try to just huddle through it, tread water, somehow keep our head above water, praying that 2021 will be a better season,” Bond said.
“It’s really unfortunate that there’s probably a lot of things that are open right now that may not be here next year. Trying to struggle through it and then struggle through a winter is going to be really, really difficult,” she continued.
“Basically, instead of opening to make money this year, it’s (about) how do we lose the least amount. It’s the weirdest business plan I’ve ever written.”