COVID-19, loss of students take toll on eateries in college towns

Updated: Mar. 18, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT
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POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - First the students left. Then Governor Cuomo banned dining at restaurants. It’s a double punch in the gut for college towns in St. Lawrence County.

People are getting restaurant food by carrying it out. Restaurants in downtown Canton and Potsdam were ready as concerns about COVID-19 spread.

“Panic at first. Okay? Then I turned to my manager, my wife, I said, ‘Time to put in place what we already have set up,’" said Christopher Durand, co-owner, Three Bears Gluten Free Bakery & Cafe in Potsdam.

That's carry out and curbside pickup. Still, it's a big blow to restaurants and businesses already worried about the mass exodus of students due to colleges closing.

“Everybody's kind of in upheaval right now,” said Gail Anderson, Marigold Kitchen & Bakery in Potsdam.

Anderson is choosing to close her restaurant altogether. Like others, she's torn between continuing to serve her customers there and the need for social distancing.

“We want to just keep things as safe as possible for the time being. Sad as it is for us,” she said.

Theaters have also closed under Cuomo's order. So have some businesses not under closure orders.

Restaurant, bakery and bar owners have all kinds of questions on this closure order. But the biggest one is: how long will it last?

“My biggest fear right now is I really feel anxious about my employees and how they're going to be able to pay their bills. So I'm trying to do my best to stay open and do carryout so I can get them a paycheck,” said Durand.

Durand said he wants continue to be one of the region’s only purveyors of 100 percent gluten-free food. Anderson says she still hopes to cook for those coming to meal distribution centers in food distress.

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