33 West owner said pandemic took him from $22,000 a week to $8,200
This holiday season was supposed to be Brandon Pelton’s bread and butter.
But after 15 years, the owner of 33 West Ale House & Grill was forced to close his restaurant doors indefinitely Nov. 2, because COVID-19 seating restrictions were killing his business.
“This was supposed to be my busy time. This pays for my insurance that’s due late winter, early spring. This holiday season pays for all those liquor licenses I’ve gotta pay,” Pelton said. “It pays for my business license. I don’t have [the money]. And it’s even slower [this year]. How am I going to pay it?”
What used to be a slow day at 33 West is now the new busy, he said. He’s doing around 40%-45% of the business he used to do in a non-pandemic year.
“I used to do $22,000 to $25,000 a week. Now I'm lucky if I do $12,000,” Pelton said, adding he did only $8,200 the week before he closed his doors.
He’s banking on using his restaurant to host holiday parties (which he’s taking reservations for). He’s also taking orders for his food truck, named Gastro Graffiti.
Pelton said closing his doors had everything to do with the pandemic because he wasn’t struggling before the economic shutdown. Since then, the entrepreneur received relief through a Payment Protection Plan loan, which lasted from May through the end of September.
Meanwhile, Pelton said he’s sitting on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan that he hasn’t used up yet. The reason is that his lease ends in January, but he doesn’t know if the shutdown will be over then. So it makes more sense to save the loan until he can figure out his next move, which might be to relocate his business, he said.
Clayton is an option
There’s a chance 33 West will get a new lease on life at the Clayton Whistle Stop Train Station. Through the rest of the month, Pelton’s food truck is going to be located there.
The entrepreneur said he likes the location because it’s COVID-19-friendly, something that’s really important to him, especially if the shutdown continues.
“It has the possibility for a lot of outside seating,” Pelton explained. “If it goes well, while I have the food truck there, it might be worth using that EIDL money to invest in putting in a small kitchen and turn that into a little restaurant.”
The restaurant 33 West doesn’t offer outdoor seating. The building is also old and narrow. “It's hard to squeeze people into a narrow building when you have to be 8 feet apart with a table,” Pelton added.
Food truck and holiday parties
The entrepreneur sees promise in hosting holiday events such as luncheons and dinners. He can customize the menu to suit client needs. The goal is to host multiple events on a given day.
“We can do a lunch and turn around and do a mid-afternoon, and then turn around and do a dinner, hopefully. That would be ideal,” he said.
Pelton acquired the food truck in August. Gastro Graffiti has kept his restaurant open until now, he said. The plan is to at least keep the truck rolling through December.
The food truck offers a similar menu to some of the faves from 33 West, such as burgers, egg rolls and Brussels sprouts. Folks can visit the Gastro Graffiti Facebook page to find the locations he’ll be parked at.
After Pelton announced on Facebook that 33 West was closing, many customers expressed sadness in the comments section.
"This is a true bummer. Brandon, you and your team have been feeding us for a long while and 33 was easily our favorite spot. Best of luck to you all," wrote one customer.
Another wrote: “My wife and I have many wonderful dining experiences at 33 West and I've also had numerous business lunches there, too. I'm sincerely going to miss you guys!”
Pelton said he was taken aback by the support.
“It’s humbling to know that many people came in and enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s something where you wish you can kinda keep it going. But on the other hand, you have to make a business decision. I got a family to think about and bills to pay. I don’t like to continue to put myself in a situation where it may not turn out well.”
Pelton said the only way he’d reopen 33 West this year is if the shutdown ended or he received more relief like a PPP grant.