ONEIDA — With coronavirus/COVID-19 bringing communities to a standstill, people like Madison Bistro owner Victor Ramirez wants people to know they’re still open for business.
“You know, there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Ramirez said. “Restaurants and bars can still do takeout and there’s a lot of [news] out there where that isn’t put upfront.”
The Madison Bistro, like every other restaurant in New York, is open for business.
“We blocked off the dining room and turned the lights off but everything else is on the menu,” Ramirez said. “We did steaks for takeout Tuesday night. You can still come and order the number one steak in the state of New York for takeout, certainly. We also sold some pot roast dinners, pot pie, grilled haddock Italiano, rice pilaf, and everything else is still available.”
Ramirez said both the lunch and dinner menu are available for patrons. On the first day of closing, March 17, Ramirez said business was good and equal to that of a normal business day.
Day two was rougher for the Madison Bistro, with sales being nowhere near as strong as Tuesday.
Hoping to encourage more people, the Madison Bistro is offering free delivery to any location between Oneida and Canastota.
The weekend has Ramirez especially concerned with most of his business coming from people looking to come in, sit down, and enjoy a meal. “We have a lot of people who are regulars who come in every Friday and Saturday night,” he said. “I don’t know how it’ll pan out and it’ll be up to them if they still want to do that in the privacy of their own homes.”
Musicians as well have been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown and regular musicians John Kelsey and Marcus Larabee are finding other work with the Bistro.
“I come to find out that both of these gentlemen are talented in other fields as well,” Ramirez said. “John Kelsey is talented with graphic design and is currently working on redesigning our menu so it reads and flows better. And Marcus Larabee is setting up our website so our customers can click on a link and order online.”
That feature is still in the works as of writing and Ramirez encourages patrons to keep an eye on their website at www.madisonbistrocny.com
These two changes are things the Madison Bistro has considered doing in the past but just didn’t know if they were ready for it, Ramirez said. “Now that this is happening, it would behoove any business that can afford it to do it,” he said.
Ramirez said restaurants in the face of the coronavirus lockdown have to adapt if they want to survive.
“You don’t have much of a choice, you have to make decisions now,” he said. “There are restaurants out there holding private dining events. There are people out there being innovative and it’s great to feel that I’m not the only one still kicking and that other restaurants are figuring out what they need to do.”
On the first day of lockdown, Ramirez said he felt like he needed to show his employees that he meant business.
“I wanted to show them that we aren’t going anywhere, that we’re not shutting down,” Ramirez said. “So I wore one of my nicest chef coats that I usually wear for weddings. I don’t wear those on a daily basis.”
Ramirez said he felt the need to show that if the Madison Bistro was going to go down, it was going to go down kicking.
Ramirez said he doesn’t know how it’s going to be for the Bistro should the lockdown last two to three weeks but he knows it’s not going to be well if it goes on for two to three months. The wait staff are definitely taking a hit, he said, without people there to tip.
The Madison Bistro is home to about a dozen employees with about five people working at any given time. “Everybody’s been very supportive, checking in with each other, and supporting one another,” Ramirez said. The wait staff, he said, are especially taking a hit without people there to tip.
Being so close to the seat of Madison County, Ramirez said he’s been under a microscope by the Madison County Health Department — and they’re happy with his efforts.
“On Monday, a health inspector was in the Madison Bistro,” Ramirez said. “He wasn’t in there to have an inspection, he wasn’t there to go over anything, and he wasn’t there to give us any information. He was here to have lunch. I thanked him for his support and later, I called him and asked what more the Bistro could do.”
According to Ramirez, the Madison County Health Department told him the Madison Bistro is “...doing fine and to keep doing what they were already doing.” There’s hand sanitizer at the register and employees wipe down everything constantly, Ramirez said, from the doorknobs to the counters.
But no matter what, the Madison Bistro is working hard and doing everything they can in the face of adversity.
“For other businesses out there going through the same thing, all I can say is buckle down,” Ramirez said. “Buckle down and remember your training. This is what we do. When you’re on the line, tickets all the way across, you’re slammed busy, and something goes wrong right in the middle of that, it’s going to take longer to fix it but that’s just what you do. You get these wrenches thrown into the works and you fix it, adapt, finish strong, and give the customers exactly what they want to the best of your ability.”
“We’re going to get through this,” Ramirez said, adding that “The Madison Bistro will be hosting a community barbecue to the community who orders the most delivery from Madison Bistro while the coronavirus lockdown is in effect. Date, time, and location to be announced at a later date.”
For more information about the Madison Bistro, from business hours to how to order, visit www.madisonbistrocny.com for more information.