Updated: January 11, 2021 10:23 PM
Created: January 11, 2021 05:16 PM
As Minnesota's bars and restaurants welcome customers back inside for the first time since November, some are considering long-term changes to help them survive the pandemic.
Roma Restaurant and Roman Market in Willernie is undergoing a major transformation, turning its former banquet hall into a deli and specialty grocery store.
"Without any catering bookings and with so many restrictions on large groups gathering, there's no potential for us to make enough revenue to survive in this building for the rest of this year without doing something drastically different," said general manager Brian Pilrain.
Pilrain said his business, located in Washington County for the past 15 years, decided to invest $100,000 into plans that will help sustain them through the pandemic and beyond.
Roma Restaurant added a stage, patio and custom bar outside this summer to keep their small brewery afloat.
Pilrain said the new meat market inside will supplement the restaurant, as they continue to operate at limited capacity due to the governor's order.
"Having this operating grocery store in the building is going to be our long-term savior," Pilrain said. "Grocery and market is something they won't shut down, so just in case the vaccines take longer to get dispersed and COVID keeps raging, we'll have a grocery store to help keep everyone employed."
Pilrain hired Valley Services, a local company specializing in contract food services management, to create the new deli.
Owner Lyle Schreck works with bars and restaurants across Minnesota and said he is noticing a trend in the industry, as a growing number of businesses reimagine their spaces to adapt to the needs of the pandemic. He said some bars and restaurants are making permanent changes, such as expanding patio seating, installing drive-through windows and increasing kitchen space to accommodate the large number of takeout orders.
"The ones that are still here are definitely making some changes," Schreck said. "Nobody's expecting to go back to the way it was anytime real fast and people always have to eat, so we just adapt to it and make it work."
The new deli inside Roma Restaurant is expected to open by Feb. 1.
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