The Blind Horse Restaurant & Winery in October became the first restaurant in the U.S. to install new-to-market light technology, known as far-UVC 222, by Florida tech firm Healthe, to disinfect air and surfaces in indoor spaces. Unlike standard UVC, which is harmful to skin and eyes, far-UVC lighting is safe to operate with people around. Over the past few months, the business has deployed a 90-day standard UVC/antimicrobial treatment, as well as air purifying ceiling fans and nightly ozone gas treatments throughout the property. BizTimes reporter Maredithe Meyer recently caught up with general manager Tom Nye about this latest step in The Blind Horse’s approach to indoor dining amid COVID-19.
Why far-UVC 222?
“One of the limitations of (using the) standard UVC light (treatment is) no one can be in the room to use it. What it didn’t do was give you real-time mitigation of the virus, so if somebody walked in that had the virus there was nothing you could do at that moment.
“I had read about a technology called far-UVC months ago, but there were no products yet. Far-UVC technology has been around for about 10 to 15 years, and it really was a race to see who was going to come out with a product first because it addressed the single most important aspect of this, which is you can have occupied space that is being sanitized in real time…
“This technology is a game changer. I fully expect far UVC-light to become standard building code someday. … The industry can never afford to shut down like we have. Technologies like this have to be installed so we don’t ever have to face this again.”
How much have you invested in new safety measures?
“We’ve spent around $50,000 since the pandemic started – not just on the lights, but the fans and all of the technologies that we put in here during the spring, and the outdoor tents and the additional investment needed to do this.”
Has it been worth it?
“It’s a lot of money to spend for any restaurant. Can I say that it was worth it from a financial standpoint? Well, I can say that it was worth it from a standpoint of the owners and I being able to sleep at night knowing that we’re responsibly opening up and keeping our employees and customers safe. …We’re one of the few restaurants (in Sheboygan County) that hasn’t shut down due to a COVID outbreak.”
Do the lights and other technology allow the restaurant to operate safely at full capacity?
“There is no such thing as safe anymore, I just want to make that clear. We’re not saying, ‘At our restaurant you’re not going to catch COVID.’ What I’m saying is it’s the safest dining experience you can have.
“Capacity inside the restaurant is above 25%, but we’re still maintaining distancing, of course. We’re not trying to pack in as many people as we can. We’ve turned down reservations all summer, up until now, every single weekend. It’s not about trying to get every dollar back at this stage. We’re trying to create an environment where people feel safe and we feel safe, and that’s what we’ve done.”
With the demand for reservations, does that mean business has been good?
“It could have been better. It hasn’t been normal. Before the pandemic hit, we were exploding. We had hit the numbers we had always thought we would hit and we had finally reached a point where we felt like our business was breaking out.
“Those numbers are no longer there for many reasons. One, we’re not packing our restaurant and, two, a lot of people have decided to stay home no matter what you do. So, we have not hit pre-pandemic levels and I don’t know when we will again. … But have we been able to survive in this environment and create a dynamic environment where people are safe? Yes, we have.”
The Blind Horse Winery & Restaurant 6018 Superior Ave., Kohler Employees: Ranges seasonally from 50 to 75 theblindhorse.com