COVID restrictions main reason for 33 West closure

Brandon Pelton, the owner of 33 West Ale House & Grill, said COVID-19 restrictions on businesses during the pandemic led to the recent closure of his establishment, which has been operating in downtown Dover for the past 16 years. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Brandon Pelton, owner of 33 West Ale House & Grill on Loockerman Street, had a feeling back in the spring that his business was facing long odds toward survival amid the COVID-19 pandemic and all the restrictions restaurants were facing.

Unfortunately, on Monday night, Mr. Pelton announced on Facebook that his fears had become a reality and that he was closing the doors to 33 West.

“Due to the ongoing COVID restrictions, it is with great displeasure to announce we will be closing 33 West for daily operations,” Mr. Pelton wrote on Facebook. “We hope that in the near future we may be able to resume operations. However, at this junction, we cannot remain open.”

He added that since his lease does not expire until January, the restaurant will be taking reservations for holiday parties during the rest of the year.

The restaurant’s owner also mentioned on its Facebook page that it will continue to offer meals through its food truck, Gastro Graffiti. Customers can follow Gastro Graffiti on Facebook and Instagram for its locations throughout the week.

It has been a time of adjustments for Mr. Pelton and other restaurateurs in the area, with frequently changing COVID-19 safety protocols, such as limited seating capacities, social distancing, wearing masks and providing hand sanitizer.

After 33 West temporarily closed in March when the pandemic began to spread, Mr. Pelton started doing takeout orders from Tuesdays through Saturdays in late May, just to get ready for 33 West’s reopening in June.

Even in late May, however, he seemed to know that the writing was on the wall.

“There are some days that are busier than others, but it’s still a struggle,” Mr. Pelton said. “It’s not like I’m out on the highway. Location doesn’t help. … I think other places on the highway are doing better, and I’m not really geared for takeout. I know a lot of the other places that are geared for takeout are doing better … Italian joints and a lot of the Mexican places.”

Mr. Pelton said he kept trying to roll with the punches – but kept getting hit hard.

“It’s a whole new business model,” he said. “I’ve changed the menu quite a bit, and I’m just trying low-cost items because you’ve got meat shortages and (the cost of) beef’s through the roof. So you try to do stuff that’s quick and easy and low-cost because my business model is out the window. So there’s no way to really plan or forecast. You don’t know how scared the general public’s going to be.

“You just can’t cut your revenues in half and expect to make it for a long period of time.”

Mr. Pelton’s 33 West Ale House & Grill had been a staple in downtown Dover for 16 years. However, coronavirus restrictions on seating capacity deeply cut into its profit margin, to the point that it was too much to overcome.

“I would like to thank everyone for your support over the last 15-plus years and hope to see you all again soon,” Mr. Pelton wrote on Facebook on Monday.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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