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COVID-19 surge causing central Arkansas restaurants to close doors

As the state continues to see record numbers, some businesses are having to close early, or shut down completely for a day as staff members test positive.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Like many of the other COVID-19 variants, Omicron is beginning to impact local restaurants. 

As the state continues to see record numbers, some businesses are having to close early, or shut down completely for a day as staff members test positive.

Several restaurants across the state have had to close-up for a couple of days to ensure that staff could get tested and stay healthy. 

Between supply chain issues, staffing shortages, and now the new COVID surge, restaurant owner Jack Sundell said it's frustrating to still be dealing with the pandemic nearly two years later.

"It's one thing after another and it's been such a struggle, and everybody feels it. The public feels the whiplash of one week it's fine and then the next week it's not," he said.

Sundell had already planned to close down his two restaurants, The Root Cafe and Mockingbird Bar and Tacos, for a holiday break after the new year. 

But, unfortunately those signs went up earlier than expected after some of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.

"Once we found that out, we decided to close immediately. We didn't feel right about staying open and the risk that it presented to the rest of our staff and to the community," he said.

Sundell isn't the only one that's having to shut his businesses down temporarily, though. 

Many other restaurants, like Raduno and Fidel & Co. have also had to close their doors due to the surge in cases.

The closures are a trend that food blogger Kevin Shalin is worried we'll see more of.

"Certainly the potential is there, for places to have to temporarily close to reassess what they're doing, to maybe have limited hours," he said.

Whether it's shorter hours or fewer days, Shalin said any amount of closure is detrimental to all restaurants. 

"It's not just a big deal to the restaurant owners, but to those people that can't come into work. They're missing out on wages, potential wages, and it's a huge impact," he said.

And while we we're still unsure when this will end, Shalin said there's still one thing we can do now.

"It's just critical that we support them through these difficult times," he said.

Sundell will be reopening The Root Cafe and Mockingbird Bar on Thursday, Jan. 6. 

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