A Jacksonville restaurateur says time is running out for small businesses as COVID mitigation requirements linger in the wake of the pandemic.
It did not take long for passersby to notice the updated blackboard on the front of Mulligan’s Pub and Grill that now reads “Closed. Thank you for the last ten years”.
Mark Schierl who along with his family owns and operates four restaurants including Mulligan’s in the Jacksonville downtown area says the sign on the front Mulligan’s is not a final goodbye just yet, however time is running out for restaurants and bars like his after being shuttered for a second time this year due to COVID pandemic restrictions. He says the biggest problem is the ongoing costs that continue to pile up when his businesses are closed down.
“We’ve tried to work with the cable TV and the power company and things like that. Take for example, we talked to the cable company and said we wanted to put it on hold and they said you’d be better off money-wise not doing that because we are going to charge you for a reconnect.
Well we don’t know how long this is going to last and things like that, so these bills just keep coming in, and that’s nobody’s fault. There’s nothing we can do. But there’s insurance and everything else involved in all this, and those monthly payments don’t stop coming due just because we’re not open.”
Schierl says he does not know what the future of his businesses will be and if they will be able to survive the continuing shutdown. On Tuesday Springfield Mayor Jim Langfielder announced January 12th as a hopeful date that indoor dining could return in the capitol city, which according to WICS infuriated many Springfield restaurant owners. Schierl says at least those owners have a date they can hang some hope on to aim for.
“I just don’t know what to do and I don’t know how long it’s going to last. At least like over in Springfield they’re getting some answers. They are saying now, what, the second week of January they are going to try to open them all back up. All we need is some answers so I can make some decisions. The numbers go down in Springfield, they say they can open up quicker, but we just need some kind of guideline to go to.
Do we shut down completely? Do I turn the power off? I don’t owe anything on our restaurants, but it still costs about $10,000 a month to keep everything else up, and I just- you’re going to run out of money before long.”
Schierl says he knows every bar and restaurant owner is facing the same uncertainty his family is. He says he has had to dip heavily into his savings to keep things going, and that won’t last forever.
“I know this isn’t just our problem, it’s all the restaurants. The thing that bothers me is, just give us some answers. If there’s going to be some help later, then let us know. When the farmers get in trouble and things like that, at least they know the government is behind them.
Right now we’re not getting any answers. We applied for a lot of grants and things like that, and financially, I’ve been through almost all my retirement just to keep going. These last six months, I’ve gone through pretty much all of it.”
Schierl says Mulligan’s was open Saturday as advertised for carry out and outdoor dining in an effort to have at least some income coming in. He said on that particular Saturday some patrons insisted on siting inside, which he says was a mistake in hindsight.
“We advertised that we would be open for carry out, gift certificates, and outdoor seating Saturday and we had an overwhelming crowd come in and we appreciate it because they were friends of ours and the town really supported us. And we did let some people sit inside because it was cold and miserable, and that was my call.
I said: ‘Do not argue with the people,’ and I know we broke the rules. Like I said that was my fault, but I am not going to argue with people. That’s like somebody arguing at Walmart that I’m not going to wear a mask, they let them go through and things like that.
I was just appreciative of these people backing us, and I did make some mistakes. Well we got phone calls after phone calls and the health department had to get involved. I know the health department is just doing their job, but we are at a point now that we needed every nickel we could get to get by. And I apologize if we offended anybody, but we did not force anybody into the building. We did not offer inside seating. We just had good people, good friends come in there and back us. And like I said, we are at the point now that we don’t know what to do.”
Schierl says he and his family are not asking for any handouts and appreciate the support they have received from the Jacksonville community. He says they have tried to offer carry out only service but it does not pay the bills and offers a poorer quality of food. As for now, he remains unsure what the future holds for his restaurants, but he says one way or another, he and his family will have to make some very tough decisions very soon.
A sign on the front of Mulligan’s Pub and Grill in downtown Jacksonville Wednesday says “Closed. Thanks for the last ten years”. Owner Mark Schierl says he has tapped into most of his retirement savings to keep his restaurants going during pandemic shut downs.