MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — When Adrian and Dara Sawczuk finally found the perfect location of The Market Common for their business, Tidal Creek Brewhouse, they dreamed of the 5,200-square-foot facility.
They envisioned offering delicious breakfast in the morning, shareables at lunch and dinner, and craft beers that would make the community feel like it was part of a perfect blend of the TV shows “Friends” and “Cheers.”
They never dreamed COVID-19 would happen.
Four months after signing Small Business Administration loan documents and spending thousands of dollars on architects and engineers, fears of spreading COVID-19 shut down places like Tidal Creek Brewhouse before they even opened their doors.
“At that point you’re about five or six months pregnant and you kind of have to deliver the baby from my perspective,” Adrian Sawczuk said. “We did have a choice. We could have put pencils down for a while and seen how things shook out."
There have been several business owners throughout the Grand Strand like the Sawczuks who were in the midst of opening their dream businesses only to face the nightmare of having to shut their doors.
Sara McCall opened her bartender-for-hire business, Lemon or Lime, in Charleston and Myrtle Beach in February. She bought about $5,000 worth of supplies — cups, coolers and napkins — and registered her business in both cities to play hostess to weddings, engagement parties, birthdays and corporate gigs.
With a $3,000 insurance policy in hand, McCall was all set to drop about $10,000 on a grand opening that would welcome 300 of the who’s who to drum up business for Lemon or Lime.
The grand opening was set for March 19. South Carolina was shut down through the governor’s orders on March 17.
“It’s not a good year to be in any business, but especially the event world where people have to gather,” said McCall, who also owns Stunning & Brilliant Events. “Social distance is not a thing, especially at a bar.”
Her idea for Lemon or Lime came when, as an event planner, she would see people try to handle serving alcohol on their own.
“It would be just a hodge-podge cluster event,” she said. “They don’t have enough ice. They don’t have enough coolers, so we’re running out to get things… As an event planner on that side, I saw there was no one in the area who would offer full service with coolers, ice, mixers, certified bartenders, and insurance… That’s when I came up with that.”
All of McCall’s bartenders are TIPS, or Training for Intervention Procedures, certified and are independent contractors, so she didn’t have to lay any employees off. Her original plan included buying a box truck for the business but, luckily, she didn’t.
McCall said she’s starting to see an uptick in her business as a result of larger corporate hotels shutting their doors to events for the rest of the year.
“We’re getting a lot of inquiries because a lot of venues are not allowing weddings,” McCall said. “These brides are still wanting to get married. So, they’re looking for private property or other venues. We’re getting quite a lot of inquiries from people who are trying to move their weddings either to a house or private property, where they can do a tent. That opens the door for us to do the catering and bar versus some place like the Marriott where they provide all of that.”
McCall said many of the wedding parties are finding that hiring her service versus having a wedding at a large hotel is about half the price. She anticipates that once the word spreads about Lemon or Lime, business will pick back up.
“I think spring 2021 will be, hopefully, back to normal,” McCall said.
The wheels for Nick Vaugh’s new business, Carolina Social Bar, were moving both figuratively and literally when COVID-19 hit. Vaugh and his partners, who also own Myrtle Beach restaurants Crave Italian Oven & Bar and Sol Y Luna Latin Cantina, saw an opportunity for a mobile bar/pub that would compliment the restaurant’s fare and provide an outdoor gathering area for private events.
The partners came up with the idea in spring 2019 and worked on the 31-foot-trailer all winter to have it ready early this year.
“Essentially, it was online right when corona raised its ugly head,” Vaugh said. “Even so, we’ve been very fortunate.”
Vaugh said they have rented the luxury trailer — complete with two flat screen TVs, a fold-out platform to seat 35 people on high-top tables and canopies to host even more guests — to mostly small groups like graduations, birthdays and small corporate events.
“It’s been very successful,” he said. “I think coronavirus, overall, has challenged the hospitality industry. But it presents opportunity. I think some folks today are not fully confident in dining in restaurants, so here’s an opportunity to bring that experience home or in a business. Folks have responded well to it.”
Vaugh said even the restaurants are seeing more guests ask to be seated outdoors.
“They want to be outdoors,” Vaugh said. “People want to be dining outside. Providing space for that to happen is critical.”
As for the Sawczuk’s at Tidal Creek Brewhouse, the second phase of their business plan calls for an 8,000-square-foot outdoor expansion, part of which is scheduled to be opened this fall.
Dara Sawczuk said the slow opening has had some blessings in disguise.
“By shutting down in March, it really bought us time to get the building the way we wanted it instead of rushing to open it,” she said. “It bought us time to get the exterior right, the furniture in, and painted exactly the way we wanted to instead of doing it in little stages. So, it bought us time before we birthed the baby.”