Now that social distancing has become the norm for the people of Yazoo County as they fight to avoid COVID-19, many dining establishments that were once places of social activity are empty.
While some restaurants have closed up shop until further notice, others are fighting to stay afloat by offering curbside service, pick-up orders, or even deliveries during this time of uncertainty.
Cindy Hanna, owner of the Ojee and Anna's Southern Diner on Washington Street, said that since closing her dining room area, her sales are down about 90 percent.
"We were doing a lot of dine-in services after we first opened, but now there are days when we barely even break $100 in sales, so it's really sad," Hanna said. "I have had to cut all of my employees’ hours, or send some of them home because I don't have enough money to pay them."
Hanna said that they have been staying open by doing carry out meals, curbside, or even deliveries just to generate revenue for the small business.
"I know the other restaurants around town are hurting as well, but there is really nothing that we can do," she said. "We are just trying to stay afloat, and until the city tells us to shut down we are going to try our best to stay open."
Thomas Johnson, owner of the popular Tom's on Main restaurant on Main Street in Yazoo City, said that his business is being affected as well.
"Since all of this began we closed off the dining room area and have been doing take out or curbside orders only," he said. "Every day that passes it has consistently been getting worse to the point that we are down 50 percent in sales right now."
Johnson said that while he has not cut his staff or operating hours, some employees made their own decisions to stay home in order to avoid catching COVID-19. He added that while they do not know how long this crisis will last, he will continue to operate day by day and see what happens.
"We just appreciate all of the people who are sticking with us the best way they can," Johnson said. "It's a terrible situation for all of us. We have been here in this location for seven years now, and we have some very loyal customers and we appreciate every one of them."
Another popular restaurant, P-Reaux's Cajun Mudbugs and Shrimp Hut on Broadway Street in Yazoo City, has reduced its staff and hours of operation in order to stay in business, while also doing curbside, pick-up orders, and deliveries.
"My sales are down about 60 percent so far with the dining room locked up," said owner Johnny Crow. "Right now we are only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, until we get through this. I have got 30 percent of my staff working, with only two people up front and two in the kitchen."
Crow said he will continue operating his business as long as he can.
"I am not going to shut down completely, not unless we are ordered to," he said. "And our local people here still need to try to support the local restaurants as long as they can. We will get through this one way or another."
Franciso Diaz, owner of El Sombrero Mexican restaurant in Yazoo City, made the difficult decision to close his restaurant until further notice in order to keep his family, employees, and customers safe.
"This is really bad," he said. "It has affected me a lot. I lost a lot of money and my employees too. I don't know how long it will stay like this, but I hope it will be over soon."
Diaz said that while he could do carry out orders now, it would still not bring in enough revenue to pay his employees.
"If it gets better in two or three more weeks then I will try again with to-go orders and carry out – even if I have to cook the food myself and bring it to customers. But right now, there is no reason for me to stay open."
Another long-standing business in Yazoo City that has been open for over 30 years, Stub's Restaurant, was temporarily closed for over a week while the owners tried to figure out a way to stay afloat.
The restaurant reopened this week with limited hours offering take-out service only. Owner David Fagan said he simply hopes to be able to keep his business afloat until things return to normal.
“We aren't even looking to turn a profit,” Fagan said. “We just don't want to go into a hole staying open just to sell a few burgers."
Fagan said that while fast-food franchises are retaining more business with their drive-through services, dine-in restaurants like his are having to change their entire operation just to stay open and work with customers.
"We are just going to see what it will do,” Fagan said. “For 31 years I have never had to battle anything like this so I am just kind of very unsure of what I need to do at this point."
Leslie Scott, owner of Ubon's Barbeque in Yazoo City has taken a different approach to her business operations in order to stay in business and maintain her revenue.
"The face of my business has completely changed," she said. "We have gone from daily lunch specials to selling meat by the pound, casseroles from the freezer, sliced bread, chicken salad, and pimento cheese."
Scott said that these sales allow customers to take food home and cook for their families while they stay indoors and avoid the pandemic. She added that while these sales of foods have become the biggest source of revenue for her business at the moment, Ubon's will still continue to offer sandwiches and small short-order specials every day for customers.
In order to stay in business, Scott said that Ubon's has had to reduce their hours of operation from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., closing on Sundays, and also cut hours for employees from working five days a week to two days a week.
"Most people are coming in to pick up or are asking for curbside or deliveries," she said.
Scott said that while adjustments had to be made to keep the business going, her sales have fluctuated up and down, but she remains confident that Ubon's will stay in business as long as possible.
"People have really been awesome in supporting us," she said. "Where they would usually spend $10, they are spending $40 buying meat and other things to stock up their freezer for the long run."
Scott said that with a smaller staff she will be able to stay open for at least a few more weeks, as long as her staff stays healthy and her grocery trucks continue to deliver supplies.
"We have had so much support from Yazoo City," she said. "It's amazing how many people who have come to us before for donations for different things, those people are now really showing up and supporting us like we supported them in the past. I am thankful to still be open, and I feel exceptionally blessed to have the support of the people of Yazoo City and Yazoo County. People have just been amazing."