Lake of the Ozarks bars, restaurants prepare for Memorial Day weekend amid pandemic

Lake of the Ozarks Social Distancing Sign
Posted at 4:00 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 23:33:31-04

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. — Bars and restaurants at the Lake of Ozarks bank on the amount of business they bring in beginning Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Despite living in a time of social distancing due to COVID-19, many business owners remain optimistic.

Staff at Dog Days Bar and Grill have adjusted on the fly during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We're going to take advantage of the space we have, the square footage we have with all of our outdoor dining. We've kind of spread the tables out a little bit," Luke Hagedorn, general manager of Dog Days Bar and Grill, said.

This Memorial Day weekend, the popular waterfront bar and restaurant located at 1232 Jeffries Road is putting all their live entertainment outdoors.

"There may be some conflicts on that, you know, because certain people are reacting to the situation in different ways," Hagedorn said.

To protect patrons, they've already canceled several large events that would have served as training opportunities.

"The pressure is really going to be on us to educate our staff who then needs to educate the customers, too," Hagedorn told 41 Action News.

Social-distancing plans are in place at many Lake of the Ozarks establishments.

Some, such as Backwater Jack's, anticipate 1,000 customers during the holiday weekend, making enforcement a Herculean task.

"We don't know who's in groups, who's in families. We expect them to do that on their own," Gary Prewitt, owner of Backwater Jack's and several other businesses, told 41 Action News. "We won't let large groups gather over 10, at least try not to, and speak to them to spread out a little bit more."

Prewitt said he expects a surge of visitors but believes a lot of his regulars came to their lake homes as states shut down due to the pandemic.

"There's a lot of people in town, but the weather hasn't cooperated with us," Prewitt said.

Mother nature is key in an area where the business model is seasonal.

"We have a three- to four-month season that pays our bills for 12 months, so if we would miss a month, I look at it would be missing three months of revenue," Prewitt said.

As states reopen in time for summer, businesses know they face a balancing act.

"We're just going to have to do it a little bit further apart and again, you know, try to just be conscious of one another," Hagedorn said. "But while at the same time allowing people to exercise the right of freedom to, you know, come down the lake and enjoy a great weekend."