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North Idaho businesses take precautions against virus and action to keep serving their customers

Tricksters Brewing Co. owner Matt Morrow, shown here on Wednesday, March 18, 2020,  said the Coeur d’Alene brewery is offering “touch-free” beer deliveries to homes as public concerns over the cornovirus grow. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Well-Read Moose bookstore owner Melissa DeMotte hauled eight bags of books to the UPS store one day earlier this week, paying out of pocket for the delivery of several publications to customers who opted to order by phone and online instead of visit the store’s Village at Riverstone locale.

Foot traffic has substantially dwindled in recent days, the result of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic that’s forced consumers to stay at home in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

DeMotte and dozens of other Coeur d’Alene business owners have had to make several concessions under national and locally-mandated restrictions, leading to more diligence and creativity to keep their respective businesses afloat.

The Well-Read Moose also is offering a curbside pickup option as well as free personal delivery to anyone within 30 minutes of the store, taking more precautions for a sizable portion of the store’s elderly regulars who may be more susceptible to the disease in the event of a local spread.

The bookstore and its eight employees are taking losses, from slower sales and shortened hours, and the business is asking for delayed payments to publishers.

Many bookstores around the country are under temporary shutdown, so DeMotte feels fortunate to help locals escape the coronovirus uncertainty through a good read.

“Books aren’t essential like food,” said DeMotte, who has owned the store for six years. “But they’re culturally essential. We have folks that are trying to keep their kids from playing too many video games while they’re home from school, and this is a time when many want to dive into a good book.”

With many restaurants and bars taking major hits – and facing a possible mandated shutdown like service industries in neighboring Washington – owners are taking both preventive and innovative measures.

Tricksters Brewing Co. in Coeur d’Alene recently implemented “touch-free” delivery, in which a delivery driver drops off an assortment of beers to customers and businesses without touching (i.e., no handshaking), leaving the product at the door.

Payment and tips can’t be made in cash in Tricksters’ touch-free approach, another measure to help slow the potential spread of the virus.

“We’re figuring out what to do to keep employees working while also emphasizing social distance,” Tricksters owner Matt Morrow said.

Tricksters, which features an award-winning J-Box IPA, has stated that sanitation is of “utmost importance” in its brewery and beer-tasting room, where customers enjoy the beverages.

Like other breweries and bars, Tricksters is also feeling a financial pinch.

Tricksters delivers its beer to several Washington vendors but with that state’s recent bar shutdown, several have canceled large orders. Some smaller breweries in North Idaho have already closed their doors temporarily.

Business was expected to expand in Oregon in May, Morrow said, but that will likely be delayed, adding more hardship for the brewery’s five employees.

“In trying times like these, we’re still figuring out what to do,” Morrow said. “We haven’t shut down operations. We’re keeping the yeast alive and the beer flowing.”

Entertainment venues in North Idaho also have put on their thinking caps.

The Hayden Discount Cinema said it spoke with Panhandle Health District and local city and county leaders on how to still operate business in a way in that could help curb a potential coronavirus spread, before putting out a plan on its Facebook page.

The theater allows only reduced seating for its 12 movies and various showings on Wednesday and Thursday and, starting Friday, will run private viewings for small groups and families of 10 people or fewer.

“(The private party showings) will be $50 and you receive 10 admission x $3 each and $20 in food,” the theater posted on Facebook. “As you can see we are not trying to take advantage of any situation here, only trying to pay the employees, pay a few bills, and provide an outing for families.”

Elsewhere, big-group events have been canceled throughout the region in recent days per instructions of national and local leaders, creating financial losses for catering services.

Angelo’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Coeur d’Alene that also offers catering, has had some parties canceled in recent days, but its owner said business has still been steady.

Owner and chef Angelo Brunson said his services, which stress sanitation, include making and preparing meals at small gatherings and dinner parties at venues and homes selected by customers, an alternative to eating out in public with the virus outbreak.

“We’re doing all right,” Brunson said. “Most people are still going forward with weddings.”