Shut down for a second time by Florida officials, the Murray Hill beer and wine bar says customers aren’t coming in as much for to-go orders because of competition from restaurants allowed to remain open.
Town Beer Co., a Murray Hill neighborhood beer and wine bar, finds the second stint of pandemic closings a challenging time.
In early June the state allowed bars to serve alcohol on the premises as part of the phase 2 reopening, but Florida officials mandated bars to close again June 26 in response to the rise in positive COVID-19 cases.
“What a weird roller coaster it’s been for our industry. We have been flipped upside down twice,” said Alex Moldovan, 31, who opened Town Beer in 2017 at 1176 Edgewood Ave. S. with his wife, Priya, 28.
“This second time is a bit scarier for us,” he said.
During the first shutdown, customers came in daily. “They were just really wanting to keep us afloat,” he said.
From the beginning of the pandemic and the shutdown, the Moldovans kept their three employees for “to go only” and delivery service and adjusted their time to allow more hours for employees.
“Anyone we had a conversation with in the last three years we got to know. We know their kids’ and their dogs’ names. Everyone came out and supported us,” Priya Moldovan said.
“We try to invest our time to learn about our customers. We don’t just hand them a pint.”
Customers started becoming friends with each other, she said.
For the second “to go only” restriction, “we have not seen that flood of people. This time people can go to restaurants, sit and drink in an air-conditioned place. It’s not a level playing field now,” Alex Moldovan said.
“Everything is open this time except for what is considered a bar. When we could have 25%, then 50% capacity, it was good for us,” he said.
They added the sale of sandwiches from Grassroots Natural Market in Five Points to attract customers and increase revenue.
Town Beer Co. sells only locally brewed craft beer and naturally produced wines.
Alex Moldovan, who had been a local brewer and craft beer sales representative, noted most bars at the time did not sell a variety of local craft beers.
They decided to support local craft breweries because they knew there were about 12 local breweries, each offering 10 to 15 beers.
The wines they sell, although not local, are all natural. “They don’t add sugar, color or yeast and most of the wines are from family-owned wineries,” Moldovan said.
He said there were enough local beers to offer and the bar idea was scalable.
They searched for months for a business “name that matches that flexible concept, able to pick up and move and expresses community, neighborhood and local without being cheesy or corny.”
One morning he woke up and said “Town, Town Beer.”
The Moldovans were attracted to Murray Hill after frequenting shops like Vagabond Coffee and Community Loaves, which they considered pioneering businesses. They moved into the neighborhood and decided to open their business there.
While attending graduate school, Alex Moldovan did all the interior work that didn’t require a professional license.
Now they are adjusting to conditions.
“The unpredictability is the worst part right now,” said Priya Moldovan.