You might think that IBJ’s top 10 stories of the year—as measured by web pageviews—would all be COVID-related.
But while stories with some connection to the pandemic dominated the list, the top story was actually about Cracker Barrel’s move to open a “ghost kitchen” pilot in Indianapolis.
Here are the top stories, with links in case you missed them the first time around.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. announced it was converting one of its Indianapolis restaurants into a food-preparation-only location as a way for the company to experiment with the emerging “ghost kitchen” trend. The location, at 9340 Michigan Road, ceased its restaurant, retail store, carryout and delivery operations on Aug. 24, and was expected to begin its new operations later that month.
Gov. Eric Holcomb first imposed a stay-at-home ordered on March 25 in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This story in late April details his goal to reopen parts of the state economy starting by May 1—and he was close. On that day, Holcomb revealed a plan that started taking effect on May 4.
The pandemic took its toll on restaurants, with some closing near the beginning of the shutdown and others lasting until later. IBJ reported on May 18 that the downtown Indianapolis location of Morton’s The Steakhouse appeared to be latest victim of the economic paralysis brought on by the coronavirus crisis. The restaurant had been closed since the governor ordered the shutdown, and by mid-May, the Facebook page listed the 41 E. Washington St. location as “permanently closed.”
After Holcomb issued his stay-at-home order in March, he spent several weeks tweaking it. On April 6, IBJ reported an extension that strengthened the restrictions around how retailers can operate—including a provision that requires liquor stores to only offer curbside pickup. The new order extended the stay-at-home directive through April 20 and (as detailed above) it was later extended until a reopening plan took effect May 4.
Indianapolis-based Steak n Shake, already struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic, closed 57 restaurants in the first quarter of the year—a stretch when it posted a nearly $11 million operating loss. With its restaurants limited to drive-thru, takeout or delivery nationwide for much of March because of the virus outbreak, the burger chain saw quarterly revenue plummet by $59 million, or 35%, compared with the year-ago period.
For much of the pandemic, Marion County had stricter rules in place for restaurants and retailers than did the state. On May 13—nearly two weeks after the state announced reopening plans—Mayor Joe Hogsett announced plans to begin easing some of those restrictions.
Ten Indiana utilities asked state regulators in May to allow them to charge ratepayers for revenue they stood to lose because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The gas and electric utilities, including Indianapolis Power & Light Co. and Duke Energy Inc., told the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission they were expecting to see “significantly reduced load and revenue” as a result of businesses closing their doors or moving operations to remote status. On June 29, the IURC ruled against the utilities’ request.
The owner of the upscale Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar chain announced in May that it would shutter its Keystone at the Crossing location—its only on in Indiana. Although the closure occurred early in the pandemic, a message the restaurant sent to customers made no mention of the pandemic.
One half of the popular “Chicks on the Right” radio program on WIBC 93.1-FM announced this fall she was leaving the show and Indianapolis for a new job—although the show has gone on with a new name and co-host. Amy Jo Clark—known as Daisy—has continued to record the “Chicks on the Right” podcast with her partner, Miriam Weaver, known as Mock. The radio show was renamed “The Mock ‘n Rob Show” and features Weaver and Rob Kendall, who had produced “Chicks on the Right.”
Way back in April, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted Indiana had reached its peak for hospitalizations from COVID-19. Now, of course, we know that was way off base. The model predicted then that Indiana would see a total of 606 deaths from COVID-19 by early August.