Not surprisingly, those things hindered the reopening, Van Leuvan said.
“We closed on the 17th of March. But, in the week prior, sales dropped dropped by, like, $35,000,” he noted.
In late May, Van Leuvan decided it was time to reopen, starting with takeout. But, then, protests hit Buckhead, morphing into vandalism, arson and looting.
“We had military police in our lot and the lot across the street,” he said, “and they put barricades up and blocked us off. I went down in the morning to see the damage, and it was amazing; we were saved.” But he pushed back the reopening to July 7, “just to let everything settle down.”
After reducing the size of the tables to seat smaller parties, and opening up a bigger patio space, Seven Lamps is now open for lunch and dinner five days a week. Still, things are nowhere near back to normal.
“The sales are maybe 20% of what it used to be,” Van Leuvan said. “If things do not improve considerably, it’s not going to work. We’ve got enough money from the (Paycheck Protection Program) to last until the end of this year. We wouldn’t be open now without it.”
Essentially, Van Leuvan said, the problem isn’t making and selling food, it’s providing the kind of service-oriented, chef-run operation that defines restaurants like Seven Lamps.
“The reason people like going to restaurants is the energy level,” he said. “With all the spacing and restrictions, you can’t generate that energy. And, I don’t know how this industry will be able to pull through.”
Even though he’s pessimistic about the future, Van Leuvan remains passionate about cooking. He looks forward to writing seasonal menus that aren’t all that different from what Seven Lamps always has offered.
“There are certain things, like the lobster bun and the mussels, that I could never take off the lunch menu. People come here for those things,” he said, adding that “the dinner menu is about 95% what we’ve always done. And the full menu is available to order online for takeout and delivery.”
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Menu: casual fine dining, with starters, small plates, entrees and desserts
Alcohol: full bar for on-site dining; beer, wine and cocktails for takeaway
What I ordered: watermelon salad with country ham, house-made mozzarella, shallot and white chocolate and horseradish granita; smoked then fried wings, with pickled shallots, aji verde sauce; grilled Georgia shrimp with scampi butter, aji Amarillo; potato gnocchi with wood-grilled summer squash, garlic, fried sage, chili, buttered bread crumbs and pecorino. The dishes traveled well. The standouts were the sweet, savory, salty watermelon salad, and the pillowy, buttery gnocchi.
Service options: order online for delivery or pickup with a curbside option; on-site dining inside or on the patio
Safety protocols: adhering to all state guidelines; list of extra safety protocols on the website
Address, phone: 3400 Around Lenox Road, Atlanta; 404-467-8950
Hours: lunch, noon-3 p.m. Tuesdays–Saturdays; dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays
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