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Local restaurants take advantage of closure by remodeling buildings

Business

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The Firehouse Grill and Bar and Smitty’s Pancake & Steak House. | Courtesy Firehouse Grill and Smitty’s Facebook pages

IDAHO FALLS — It’s not ideal that some restaurants have been shut down for weeks because of COVID-19, but some are taking advantage of the difficult situation.

The Firehouse Grill and Bar in Ammon and Smitty’s Pancake and Steak House in Idaho Falls aren’t open and they have something big in the works. Both restaurants are currently being remodeled and the owners are looking forward to the day customers can enjoy the transformations for themselves.

“In the restaurant business, you don’t ever get time to do stuff because you’ve got to stay open,” Owner of Firehouse Grill Kevin La Fleur said. “Instead of trying to do a little bit of carry out or whatever, that might pay the light bill, we decided to shut it down and go through with a fine-tooth comb to clean everything up, straighten things up and do maintenance things that we’ve always wanted to do.”

Remodeling is taking place inside and outside Firehouse Grill. La Fleur said they’ve done lighting and furnishing changes and staining and varnishing. They’ve replaced floor tiles, fresh artwork has been hung and new and more beer taps are being added too.

The biggest change is outside though, where they’ve poured cement and created a patio area. La Fleur said the last time they did an add on was around 2010. He wouldn’t reveal much about what the patio area will entail, but he said to follow The Firehouse Grill on Facebook for updates.

On top of the patio, they’ve had their HVAC ductwork cleaned out and the building sanitized, so it’s ready for when they can open again.

“We wanted to do something for the community to let them know that life is still going to go on, and the firehouse is always going to be here,” he said. “We understand what everybody is going through and how nerve-racking this is and how economically damaging this is. But if everybody pulls together and does a little bit to push us forward, I think we’ll all survive this.”

La Fleur said the remodeling is getting closer and closer to being completed.

“It’ll be pretty well refreshed by the time we get done,” La Fleur said. “I’ll be pretty excited to see everybody’s face’s when they come in and enjoy the firehouse.”

Across town at Smitty’s, Porter Clayton said they’ve also been focusing on revamping the inside of their restaurant.

“We never wanted to shut down the store for the remodel but because of COVID-19, we were forced to shut down. So rather it being a long process of remodel that would probably stretch out for another couple months, we decided to work with our contractors and try and squeeze as much into it as we could right now,” Clayton said.

Smitty’s is one of many small businesses in east Idaho trying to fight through COVID-19. It’s been in business for close to 50 years, Clayton said. There’s a personality and a feel that locals and non-locals appreciate, and it’s an identity Clayton said they knew they couldn’t lose in the remodel.

There is new flooring, light fixtures, booths and a sound system. They’ve also re-painted the inside and added a conference room wall to provide a banquet room.

“Our whole goal with the remodel is to allow Smitty’s to continue for the community, and also as a community, to rally together to survive,” he explained.

Clayton said their goal is to have all the changes done by the middle of next week.

“We’ve appreciated the support from everybody in the community at this time. We hope that other small businesses are surviving. We know it’s difficult, but we also feel like we’re a close community and that together we’re rallying behind each other and figuring out ways to come out ahead of this,” Clayton said.

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