BATH — When Sourasay Senesombath chose Bath as the home of his fourth restaurant, Asian Noodle House, he never thought a pandemic would bring his plans to a grinding halt.

“My family has been (in the restaurant industry) since 1990,” said Senesombath. “Usually when we open a new restaurant everyone gets excited, but not right now.”

The restaurant at 241 Congress Ave., in a strip mall that includes the Garden Island Laundromat, was once an old bakery and needed to be remodeled with new equipment. Senesombath said he was hoping to open in the second week of May. His plan was to serve mostly takeout Thai and Vietnamese food.

Bath city councilors granted the restaurant’s request for a liquor license last week, but that’s the most progress Senesombath has made since coronavirus hit Maine. His is the only liquor license application the city has received and approved since coronavirus reached Maine in March, according to Darci Wheeler, Bath’s city clerk.

Statewide, the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations has issued three liquor licenses for restaurants in March and April thus far, according to Tim Poulin Deputy director of liquor operations.

“Everything went from bad to worse within a month,” said Senesombath. “Coronavirus has been a setback for everything and everyone.”

He also arranged for two family members from Thailand to come to Bath to cook Thai food for the restaurant, but neither has been able to obtain a work visa due to virus-related delays and travel bans.

“It has been hard to get the food I need too,” said Senesombath. “Most of our food and supplies come from Boston, and they haven’t come up for about five weeks.”

With an unfinished space and no workers, Senesombath is unable to offer takeout food in Bath to get by.

“It’s really hard right now,” he said. “We don’t know if we’re going to open at all.”

James McCommon, an economics professor at the Univerity of Maine Orono, said this is an especially hard time for nearly all businesses because demand and consumer spending has plummeted. New restaurants are in a particularly hard situation because consumers don’t know the business yet.

“Existing businesses have a customer base and with restaurants, loyalty and repeat customers are a big factor,” said McCommon. “Like any new business, costs are going to be higher in the beginning too because it takes time to make more and more consumers aware and generate revenue.”

Senesombath said he has not yet applied for any small business loans to help get the restaurant in working order. He also said he doesn’t know much he has spent on the new business.

“We’re just waiting it out right now and it’s a huge gamble,” said Senesombath. “Of course I want to open, be successful, and pay my staff.”

McCommon said businesses, especially new restaurants, should focus on boosting revenue while reducing costs. To do this, he recommended creating a limited menu to reduce food and service costs as well as maintaining a strong social media presence so the public knows about the new business.

“Especially during a time like this, any business needs to focus on profitability first and foremost,” said McCommon.

For the time being Senesombath continues to make ends meet by serving takeout food in his other restaurant, Asian Cafe, in Winslow.

Last month Gov. Janet Mills ordered all restaurants and bars in Maine to close to dine-in customers and prohibited social gatherings of more than 10 people. On March 31, Mills announced a statewide stay-at-home order, which means Mainers are only allowed to leave their homes for “essential personal activities” such as grocery shopping, seeking medical care, or commuting to an essential job.

The order is slated to last until April 30 but may be shortened or lengthened, depending on the coronavirus situation in the state. Maine had 633 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by coronavirus as of Sunday, as well as 19 deaths, according to the Portland Press Herald.

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