Mainstreet Daily News, in a collaboration with Noel Leroux, founder of Gainesville Downtown, is spotlighting downtown businesses to learn how each one is coping with the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation.
On Thursday evening, in front of an empty CRANE RAMEN Gainesville, Haruka Anzai glanced at the clock on her cell phone. She noted the time was just past 6:30 p.m. The restaurant's front-of-house manager said that if the dining room were open, there would be people on the patio waiting for tables to become available.
"It would be happy hour right now," she said. "We would most likely be packed with students and families."
Instead, large to-go bags containing take-out orders sat on the railing outside the restaurant. Loyal customers are still ordering from Crane Ramen, but business is only about one-third of what it had been before the coronavirus outbreak.
"Business is down a lot," Anzai said.
In fact, Crane Ramen had to lay off at least 10 of its servers so they could file for unemployment benefits.
"Working like this right now is not a livable wage," said the 22-year-old Anzai, who said she has also considered joining the jobless ranks. Fortunately, Crane Ramen is doing just enough business to keep its doors open for the time being. That means Gainesville can still enjoy the best craft ramen bowls in town by ordering by phone (352.727.7422), online through 352delivery.com or in person at 16 SW 1st Ave. Crane Ramen is currently open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily except Mondays.
Starting next week, however, the restaurant will switch to dinner hours (4-9 p.m.) from Wednesday through Sunday. Crane Ramen will continue its $10 Tuesdays all day, offering $10 bowls of Miso Cured Chicken Shio, Paitain, Shoyu, Veggie Miso and Spicy Pork Shoyu Paitan starting at 11 a.m. (For the full menu, visit craneramen.com.)
Meanwhile, Crane Ramen also offers beverages to-go, including its Tokyo Snake Bite, Strike a Matcha and Fox & the Bear signature cocktails as well as Springtime Sake Punch. The restaurant accepts credit cards and cash. Anzai said she is grateful for customers who continue to patronize Crane Ramen during these difficult times.
"One customer drove up from Micanopy to bring us a bottle of bourbon and snacks," she said. "He said 'This is for you guys to keep your heads up.'" Also. Crane Ramen has started a gofundme.com page to raise money for continuing to fund its employees' healthcare, regardless of employment status.
Noel Leroux is the publisher of gainesvilledowntown.com, a website dedicated to covering all things downtown. His mission is to inform, entertain and engage readers with compelling articles about arts, entertainment, and the foodie scene in Gainesville.