SPEEDWAY, Ind — The bars and restaurants along Main Street in Speedway are gearing up for a race day like they’ve never experienced before. And one of the biggest venues in town is expecting the biggest crowd.
“Typically during a race weekend, we would be super busy Friday and Saturday, but then Sunday was pretty quiet until after the race let out, and then we would just get smacked,” said Corinne Koller, Manager at Big Woods Restaurant in Speedway. “We operationally have to figure out what we are going to do different this year to accommodate the fact that there is no blackout. We will be broadcasting the race live. So we are anticipating large amounts of people in the (restaurant) all weekend, but how can we do so while still keeping ourselves safe and our clients safe? Everything from spacing our tables six feet apart to making sure that we're accommodating social distancing. Because of the state mandate, we're requiring masks, and for our staff on site, we're using gloves, and we're refilling sanitizer bottles.”
The managers at Big Woods say with the race being broadcast live on Channel 13, they’re anticipating a packed house on Sunday, Aug. 23 from when they open at 11 a.m. until they close at 10 p.m.
“Inside at this time, we're under 50 percent capacity,” Koller said. “Being under capacity looks totally different from what we're used to seeing in May, so that's going to be quite a big change. Usually we're packing in tables and moving in bar stools and maximizing as much capacity because we have such a big space, but now it's gonna look totally different because we are at a limited capacity.”
And because Big Woods must keep its capacity at 50 percent, there will be empty tables even when there’s a line outside. Thankfully for the Big Woods staff, the restrictions on their outside deck are less stringent.
“As far as outside goes, as long as we are six feet, social distancing between the tables and as long as we're not providing space for mingling and group gatherings, we have a little bit more flexibility,” Koller said.
Big Woods will not be taking reservations, they will not be putting extra seating in their parking lot and they will not be putting tables on Main Street on race day.
“We have a responsibility to uphold these guidelines and to make sure that our staff is safe, just as much as our clients are safe,” Koller said. “So I think we can best by controlling the traffic on our location.”
No matter how much planning goes into the weekend, the Big Woods staff is expecting the unexpected.
“W hear the phrase the ‘New Normal’ all of the time,” Koller said. “We have been working very hard and very diligently to become accustomed to this new normal, but it'll be interesting to look back and say, ‘Wow, remember how we had to do that in 2020?!’ This is still going to be unlike anything we have ever seen before.”