RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Restaurants are able to reopen under Virginia’s Phase 3 guidelines, but the owner of The Jasper in Carytown says the original business model doesn’t make sense for the new rules.
The building that houses The Jasper is long and thin, making it naturally hard to socially distance. This matter ultimately caused a reopening headache for owner, Kevin Liu.
The Jasper’s bar area is normally the center of the action. Their attention to detail in each hand-crafted cocktail is their self-promoted ‘crème de la crème‘. But bar seating is still not allowed under the current reopening guidelines.
“The Jasper was designed to be a gathering space. It was designed for people to come and be close to each other,” Liu said. “That doesn’t work anymore.”
As a member of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Coronavirus Task Force, Liu was able to provide his own input about whether or not restaurant bars should consider allowing bar seating. He says that due to people sitting over ice wells and service areas, bar seating shouldn’t be permitted during this stage of the pandemic.
Even though choosing not to reopen The Jasper ultimately hurts his bottom line, Liu says he would rather make the right call for the safety of his employees and guests. He is also still operating Carytown Cupcakes which is next door and shares an employee entrance.
Instead of reopening The Jasper, Liu is trying something new and operating a different online take-out restaurant from Tuesday to Sunday every week. ‘Friends and Family: A Kitchen Series‘ is an opportunity for chefs to launch an online starter restaurant inside of The Jasper’s building.
“We said, ‘alright who do we know who can cook?'” Liu said when explaining how he started this new venture.
“…We have staff and friends in the industry who are underemployed and eager to share their creative food with Richmond.”
The shared kitchen is located in the back of The Jasper and Liu was able to bring in equipment from another venue he operates to set up a temporary space for chefs to prep and cook their meals. They prep on one day and then their food is available for takeout the next day.
Thursdays are Liu’s day for the shared kitchen and he calls his pop-up restaurant Slurp! Ramen.
And although The Jasper isn’t open, Liu stays busy and spends a portion of his morning updating the website to include the new menu for the day. He says, that with plenty of options, there should be a taste for everyone to enjoy.