KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As visitors make their way to the Kansas City metro for the Big 12 Tournament, bars and restaurants anticipate confusion over mask wearing. But the businesses are prepared to pick up where they left off.
"It gives us a chance to show nationally what a special place Kansas City really is," said David Lopez, general manager of Manny's Mexican Restaurant and president of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (GKCRA).
Manny's Mexican Restaurant in the heart of the Crossroads is ready to welcome and serve Big 12 fans like they were last year before COVID-19 restrictions hit the metro and the tournament itself was canceled.
"To tell 60-plus people that they have to file for unemployment because of this pandemic [is] one of the worst moments of my life," Lopez said.
Manny's lost about 60% of sales during that quarter, according to Lopez, but quickly adapted to keep serving customers.
The restaurant's table distancing, face masks and cleaning on the hour will continue during the tournament, in line with local health guidance.
"We're still under a mask mandate here in Kansas City," Lopez said. "Once you sit down, once there's proper distance between folks, which every restaurant and bar is going to provide here in Kansas City. For the next four days, people will be safe and they will be taken care of here in Kansas City. But we all have to make a collective effort."
Same goes at the Streetcar Grille & Tavern at 16th and Main streets.
"It's how we've handled it in the past. We are right next to two hotels so we always have out of towners," Jennifer Hudson, Streetcar Grille & Tavern manager, said. "We just politely asked them, 'Please go ahead and put a mask on until you get to a table, and if you get up make sure you put the mask back on.'"
Although Streetcar Grille & Tavern cut staff at the beginning of the pandemic, Hudson said staff has doubled for the busy days ahead.
"Our job is to make sure everybody stays safe," Hudson said.
Lopez said GKCRA is doing everything it can to disseminate information about grants and loans to help establishments keep their doors open – but the tournament is a much-needed boost.