For independent restaurant owner Kay Masri, the appeal of Olive Bistro’s Midtown location - at Juniper and 12th Streets - is that it’s an easy walk from nearby residential and office buildings as well as Piedmont Park. According to Masri, 99% of her customers arrive on foot, by bike or ridehailing service.
That’s one advantage that has positioned Olive Bistro to weather the pandemic, because many customers were already placing to-go orders from the chef-driven Mediterranean restaurant before the virus changed how we dine.
“We always wanted to locate deeper into the Midtown neighborhood,” said Masri, whose original Olive Bistro location was situated in a strip mall on Ponce de Leon Avenue. “We looked at our delivery business and saw that the 30309 zip code was very active, so it was a good move.”
Strong Ally for Juniper Street Improvements
Since the restaurant opened for business in its current location in the 1075 Midtown building in late-2018, Masri has been a strong advocate for planned changes along the Juniper Street corridor. Those plans have experienced many delays over the years, due in part to intergovernmental coordination and design changes.
“Juniper is a great street because it’s walkable, lined with trees and close to everything,” said Masri. “I just hope the planned improvements happen in my lifetime.”
When the COVID-19 public health crisis hit Georgia in March, most of the necessary connections were already in place. Olive Bistro was an early adopter of online delivery services, having forged agreements many years ago. The restaurant stayed open for delivery and takeout via online ordering, and even found a way to do contactless curbside pickup.
Biding Time Amid a Wave of Restaurant Dining Room Reopenings
As more restaurants are reopening their dining rooms, Masri is remaining cautious. Olive Bistro recently began serving customers at tables outside on the sidewalk, but no indoor dine-in service yet.
“I have not seen Dr. Fauci in the news lately, or any updates from the CDC,” she said, citing the lack of clear public health data and guidance that would help her set a timeframe for fully reopening.
The wait staff has worked to overhaul everything. The handful of outdoor tables are spaced six feet apart. Check presenters are out of circulation for now. One less thing to wipe down.
“The community is supportive,” said Masri. “People are willing to support if they see you’re doing the right thing.”
The same goes for the landlord, according to Masri.
“Daniel Corporation has been amazing,” she said. “They’re making sure we have everything we need right now and going the extra mile to protect us.”
Looking Ahead at Reforms to Help Local Restaurants Outlast the Pandemic
Having worked as a restaurateur for more than two decades, Masri feels certain that the effects of the pandemic will be around for a long time, and that her industry will need to adapt even more. She is getting plugged into the Independent Restaurant Coalition for Congressional reform on financial relief and advocating for policy action locally to extend restaurant “to-go” alcohol sales through at least the end of the year.
“We already pay so much for the alcohol license,” she said. “Having to-go sales at least gives us a fighting chance to recover most of that expense for the year.”
The current City of Atlanta “to-go” provisions are set to expire June 30 without new legislative action from Atlanta City Council to extend them.
Masri is also looking for any options at her disposal to occupy more of the sidewalk space, effectively expanding her al fresco dining footprint without making it impossible for people to walk by. Some zoning limitations exist with regard to how far patio dining can spill out onto the sidewalk.
“Independent restaurants need to be willing to try lots of new things right now to make it through this,” she said. “We can do it.”
Midtown Alliance staff are in daily contact with restaurants to assess reopening plans and find out what kinds of support they need. See this directory of Midtown restaurants offering takeout, delivery, modified dine-in service, gift cards, giving oppotunities for staff relief and more. Thanks for supporting local businesses.