NORMAN — The Diner, like many Norman restaurants, is a hub for good food and social interaction, but that's coming to a temporary halt tonight when Mayor Breea Clark's proclamation takes affect.

The proclamation, which calls for the closure of all restaurants and bars starting at midnight, will have a major impact on company revenue and the earnings of wait staff who rely on generous tips from customers.

"It will hurt our girls," The Diner manager Kimen Allen said. "Their tips are a good bit of money. Our customers are good to us and are very loyal."

The mayor's order to close all restaurants is forcing The Diner, 213 E. Main St., to rely on take-out orders and delivery, Allen said The Diner uses Postmates, a food delivery service.

Still, Allen knows revenue will take a nosedive because of the required closings and social distancing mandate.

"We're not going to run in a day with to-go business what we would with dine-in," she said. "It will be significant."

There's also the issue of cutting hours for some employees.

At The Diner, Allen will use a skeleton crew with a cook, dishwasher and someone to answer the telephone for take-out orders. Typically, the restaurant would have five people on most weekdays and nine employees on the weekends.

"Some people won't be working at all," Allen said.

Still, some customers have promised to call in orders.

"What people like about us is this place is comforting and our girls know the customers," Allen said.

One customer who ate at The Diner Tuesday morning already went through the COVID-19 scare in Europe. Robert Wheelis, who is from Oklahoma, currently lives in Albania and owns a coffeeshop there.

He was in Norman this week to visit his son, who attends the University of Oklahoma.

"If I had decided to leave one day later, I would still be in Albania," he said. "We went through over in Albania what the United States is going through now."

During that time, businesses shut down and people were not allowed to congregate in public, Wheelis said.

"You could ride your bike or walk, but you couldn't stop and talk to anyone," he said. "It's fascinating here. You're able to watch it escalate as it did there. I can see what's coming before it happens. It's followed the pattern I thought it would. America is responding similar to Albania, but America is not prepared to move as fast because of the way it affects the economy."

Meanwhile, owners at the Meating Place on Main Street is trying to adapt to local requirements set by the mayor. Co-owner P.J.

Taylor is fortunate the restaurant has a food truck that will help provide an alternate source of revenue during the closure period.

"We're trying to find a spot for the truck," he said.

The Meating Place also will provide to-go orders and delivery with Uber Eats.

"It will have a substantial impact, but we're thankful we have the food truck as another source of revenue the next two weeks," Taylor said.

Tips received from the to-go orders and deliveries will be split among the restaurant's servers and bartenders as a way to mitigate the loss of restaurant customers.

Restaurants and businesses that offer or will offer takeout or delivery services can register to be included on a list composed by the Norman Chamber of Commerce.

"We have set up a page on our website, specifically dealing with the COVID-19 crisis," Norman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Scott Martin told the city council Monday. "We have a button (page) there with multiple resources for businesses to avail themselves of starting tomorrow (Tuesday)."

The chamber also is offering an online forum for businesses that need help adapting their model to the crisis and are putting together financial teams to help owners navigate their way to apply for low interest loans from the Small Business Administration.

Staff writer Mindy Ragan Wood contributed to this story.


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