Along with other Old Town Pacific business owners searching for ways to reopen and operate safely past COVID-19, James McHugh, president of the Pacific-based public policy MAGI Foundation, is guessing what the “new normal” will be.
In the meantime, MAGI leaders are parlaying their thoughts into a new vision, one they hope will jumpstart different norms for the local community.
Despite future ambiguity, McHugh said he and foundation supporters launched a new website to link to businesses in Old Town Pacific. The URL of the new website is MAGI.operahouseofpacific.com.
“We are not sitting by and waiting for something to happen to our businesses,” stated McHugh. “This is not a protest in any sense, but a plan to help us to move immediately consistent with directions from our state and our city’s health advisories.”
McHugh established the MAGI Foundation in 1994 as a 501(c)(3) corporation. He said it served as an incubator through the years for some of Pacific’s now self-standing groups, such as the Pacific River Walk and the Pacific Partnership.
The group is hosting online meetings and discussions to encourage business managers in Old Town Pacific to regroup in light of the silent enemy — the coronavirus.
McHugh has chaired the foundation since its inception. Its board members are comprised of Doug Straatmann, treasurer; Abner Womack, a University of Missouri senior economist; Bruce Ryan, a chief executive officer and consultant of major metro corporations; and Lisa Troglio, a business executive and principal associate at SMA, Inc.
Foundation members outline the Old Town Pacific area as starting at the city’s clock going four blocks in all directions, or more specifically, north and south on First Street from Osage south to Orleans Street; east and west on St. Louis Avenue from Fourth Street; and on the west to West Olive Street on the east.
McHugh said some Old Town businesses will provide carryout service to mitigate their operational losses, but none in the Old Town are positioned to become a lineup of fast-food restaurants.
“We are that center place of unique sit-down restaurants, surrounded by arts, antiques and railroad history, with the best in entertainment,” said McHugh.
He said business owners will fully comply with the advice of Missouri and Pacific officials, but that “there are no restrictions at this point on thinking, imagining, planning and preparing.”
McHugh’s personal Pacific Brew Haus crew at the McHugh & Dailey Mercantile Building reopened with restrictions May 6. He said the restaurant also is planning to serve customers outside in its Gaslight Square area.
Some of the coronavirus-prompted health safety changes at the Brew Haus include no reservations presently; all seating must be handled by a restaurant hostess or employee; no waiting area for guests at this time; only one person in each party should go inside to the host stand to request seating and if there is not a table immediately available; guest cellphone numbers will be taken and a text will alert them when their table is ready; the full number of people in a party must be seated at the same time; and taping off several tables and chairs to ensure proper physical distancing.
“This is difficult for all of us, but we’re trying to look out for the safety of our staff and customers. This is new for all of us, and we’ll be learning as we go,” said McHugh. “Although we tried to think of every scenario, we know things will pop up and changes will be made accordingly. We appreciate support and patience during this difficult time.”