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Memphis restaurants temporarily will not have people eating in their establishments due to COVID-19 outbreak

Owners and employees hope people will choose takeout and delivery during coronavirus pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

Restaurant owners know it will be a challenge to make it with limited income from take-out or curbside service. Memphis bar owners who must close their doors are worried if they'll ever re-open.

Many Memphis restaurants were already doing what they could, limiting the number of tables and patrons as precautionary measures, but starting Friday morning, tables in all restaurants and bars will be empty by mandate of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. He says it's a necessary move despite reports that one-third of restaurant jobs will be lost in the U.S. due to coronavirus.

Zebra Lounge owner Tamara Goldstein had already made the tough call to close her Overton Square bar Tuesday morning even in the midst of St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

"I own a very small establishment where the whole business model is come in and have a big party with your friends and listen to the live music and putting people in danger that way would make me less likely to sleep at night," said Goldstein.

Goldstein says her decision was based on the safety of her staff and patrons despite the money lost. Now all restaurants and bars across Memphis are preparing to do what Goldstein did and dim their dining room lights.

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Memphis restaurants aren't just known for their food, they’re known for the dining experience. For now you'll just have to settle for the food. In downtown Memphis, pickup zones have been set up, recognized with orange bags over parking meters, making it easier for you to get to the food you love.

Goldstein knows some restaurants won't survive this downturn.

"To-go food alone will not pay those bills. It will almost cost you more money to stay open," said Goldstein.

Like other restaurant and bar owners, she's encouraging her furloughed employees to file for unemployment.

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