Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent order forbidding sit-down service at restaurants and bars has left businesses scrambling to figure out how to keep some cash coming in and stay afloat financially.
One of Frederick’s highest-profile restaurants is converting to a pop-up wine shop for Thursday through Saturday in an effort to sell off some of its inventory and help support the staff.
Volt, the North Market Street eatery co-owned by celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio, will offer wines at a variety of prices from Thursday through Saturday.
“This isn’t out to try and get a buck,” Voltaggio said Wednesday. “This is to try and get the bills paid.”
Voltaggio stood in the darkened dining room of the closed restaurant, surrounded by tables stocked with rows of wine bottles and price tags.
In acknowledgment of the dangers of the virus, they would handle sales with concern for social distancing and other methods to stop or control its spread, he said.
Only three to four people, including staff, will be allowed inside at a given time. No cash payments will be allowed, only credit card transactions.
Staff will have to meet customers in person to check their IDs, but will wear gloves to package the wine and deliver purchases, Voltaggio said.
They’ll provide both electronic and paper copies of the wines available, and even have their orders delivered to their vehicles, said Rob Stevenson, Volt’s general manager.
The idea seemed like a good way to support their roughly 50 kitchen and wait staff while the restaurant is prohibited from serving sitting customers.
The East Street sister eatery Family Meal will offer curbside food service, but Volt is more of an experience you get by eating in the restaurant, Voltaggio said.
With restaurants in Maryland limited to drive-in, carryout and delivery service, the Frederick County liquor board has received lots of questions and applications to provide delivery and carryout service for beer and wine in recent days, said Debbie Burrell, the board’s chairwoman.
Establishments have always been allowed to provide carryout beer and wine sales if they complete an application with the liquor board, but some establishments may not have been aware of this until now, Burrell said.
The application contains 17 regulations, including that delivery people must be 18 years old and an employee of the store rather than from a third-party company such as Grubhub.
Restaurants must also complete a form with every delivery with the types of alcohol being delivered, and information to make sure the customer has been verified as at least 21 years old.
Businesses are required to keep the forms for every delivery to provide to inspectors if asked, said Penny Bussard, the liquor board coordinator.
Volt will do the pop-up shop from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then see if they want to set up any future dates, Voltaggio said.
With so much uncertainty for the restaurant industry, some changes had to be made quickly.
“We’re changing our business model fast in order to create some revenue,” he said.