Ernesto Contreras, the manager of El Ranchero on South Missouri 7 in Blue Springs, stands alone outside of the Mexican restaurant and bar, hoping to greet a customer who can purchase curbside food, but not enter the dining room.
"I don't know what's going to happen, but our business is down 80 to 90 percent," Contreras said. "At this rate, I don't know how much longer we can survive. I hope our customers know that we are open for take-out."
"We are not closed. Our dining room is closed, but we are open for take-out and curbside."
His message is echoed across the area after Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. and Independence Mayor Eileen Weir on Monday limited all public gatherings to 10 or fewer people and closed all restaurant dining rooms, limiting service to drive through, pickup and delivery.
If you want to know if a restaurant is open, managers and administrators suggest checking social media posts or calling the restaurant.
As The Examiner looked into restaurants in Eastern Jackson County, the only chain restaurant we found closed was First Watch.
"Yesterday was just crazy," said Cindy McClain, president of the McClain Restaurant Group, which owns several restaurants on the Independence Square, including Ophelia's, Cafe Verona, Square Pizza, The Courthouse Exchange, Main Street Coffee House, El Pico and Up Dog.
"We went from gatherings of no more than 50 people, to no more than 10 people to closing all dining rooms and offering curbside pick up, drive through and the different delivery services."
"I understand what is going on," she said. "This is a time we need to take precautionary measures, but I am the one who has to go in face to face with my employees and tell them we might be closing one of our restaurants, or limiting the number of employees we need to work a certain day."
As of Tuesday afternoon, McClain said her restaurants were open. (Diamond Bowl and the Pharaoh Four Theater are closed.)
"We have never gone through anything like this," she said, "and we're learning how to deal with it, literally hour by hour and day by day."
It's noon in Blue Springs, and the dining area at Vito's Original Pizza on Missouri 7 is empty.
"Our dining room is closed," said Inofrio Mannino, Vito’s son and partner, "but we are open for business! We are lucky that we have a drive-through area that we have had for years."
"And we are still offering everything on our menu, you just can’t eat in our dining room. We are allowing patrons to order at the front, but they have to get their food and return to their car."
"I promise you, we have been around for many years and we are going to be around for many years to come. This is hard for everybody, but we will survive."
Steve Pace, the co-owner of Tim’s Pizza on U.S. 40 in Independence, echoed Mannino’s comments.
"Tomorrow is Wednesday, and we're supposed to have the managers from 21 QuikTrip stores eat lunch here, and it’s been canceled," Pace said. "We’re getting all kinds of cancellations, but we will get through this.
"Right now, I don’t know how, but we will. We just ordered $4,500 worth of produce, and we’re not selling many pizzas. What’s going to happen to that? I just had to call three employees and tell them we don’t need them to come to work tomorrow."
"And what about all the employees who live paycheck to paycheck? What about the employee who survives on tips, and doesn’t have those tips? Yet they still have to pay the babysitter?
"And what is today? It’s St. Patrick’s Day and we haven’t served a beer all day. It’s just crazy, and we all hope it ends soon."
Ted Heyer, the COO of Zarda’s Barbeque, is thankful his Blue Springs location on Missouri 7 has a drive-through lane.
"But you know what’s crazy?" aske Heyer,. "I’m eating with a friend before they shut down the dining room and he said, ‘It’s a shame you don’t have a drive through.’"
"I looked at him and said, ‘We’ve had a drive through for years.’ So we want everyone to know that even though our dining room is closed, our drive through is open, we offer curbside and have all the delivery services.
"We’re all going to need each other to get through this."
On Missouri 291 in northeast Independence, Richard Cash rigged a large homemade sign to indicate a drive through in front of his restaurant Little Richard’s. Being St. Patrick’s Day, he had the traditional corned beef and cabbage with potatoes ready for customers.
Cash jokingly said he had to call a food vendor who skipped a scheduled delivery Tuesday morning, presuming the restaurant would be closed.
"No, we’re still open," he said.
Tasha Lindsey knows all about a feeling of unity as she is the executive director of the Grain Valley Partnership, and she spent all day Tuesday visiting each restaurant in Grain Valley – corporate or family owned – to make sure they knew what was going on.
"I have visited with folks from every restaurant in Grain Valley. and the restaurants like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Sonic are fine – they have drive through and know exactly what is going on and how to serve the public," Lindsey said. "The folks at Subway don’t have a drive through, but they will have curbside service."
"I have visited with the managers from El Maguey, Lin’s Kitchen and Cheese Steak and they all understand. Right now, they’re all just trying to stay alive, and we hope that people who read this will understand that while dining rooms are closed, their food is still available through pickup, curbside and delivery services."
The Examiner’s Mike Genet contributed to this article.