Since 2008, Cecil's Cajun Kitchen has been a staple of the community. Known for live music, great food, and a welcoming atmosphere, Cecil's is touted by many as a local hotspot.

The global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent statewide stay at home order had a big impact on local small businesses. 

Cecil’s was not exempt from this.
Owner Jon Doyle recently spoke with us and described his initial reaction to the Stay at Home order. 

“We were optimistic that it wasn’t going to last as long as it did,” Doyle said. “We tried to run a skeleton crew, and run only to-go orders.”

Despite their optimism, the stay at home order lasted longer than Doyle anticipated. By the end of March, he realized that running with those limitations made it harder to make money and put a strain on employees. 

Doyle made the decision to temporarily close for the month of April. During that time, Cecil’s kept in touch with customers giving them updates whenever they had new information. Their optimism showed through in their posts which were tagged with the phrase “The Tiger Burger will survive.”

Now that Louisiana has entered Phase One of the White House guidelines to reopen the country, Doyle said that Cecil’s has benefited from the eased restrictions. 

“We reopened on May 7. In comparison to what it was, it [business] is way better than when we were only allowed to do to-go orders,” Doyle said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.” 

Doyle expressed that while Phase One has eased restrictions and been helpful, he still wants Cecil’s to ultimately return to the way it was before the pandemic crippled the state. 

Doyle said:“Cecil’s is a destination place. We don’t have a parking lot. We are here in downtown DeRidder. We could have an eighty person military party a couple of times a month. We could easily do birthday parties with 30-40 people. Right now, we are not able to have those. We need to open back up fully in order to thrive like we were doing before.”

Cecil’s additional party room has gifted them an advantage when it comes to social distancing requirements. On a normal day, the room would be reserved for parties and special events. Now the room is open to regular customers to help allow for more customers to dine in, while still adhering to social distancing requirements. 

Making adjustments has led to an innovation that may stay on at Cecil’s in the future. Doyle stated that Cecil’s recently implemented a “contactless menu” where customers can simply scan a barcode on the menu with their phone, and then gain access to the full menu digitally.

“It’s convenient and you don’t have to worry about how many people possibly touched the menu,” Doyle said. “It’s pretty cool, so I think that maybe something that sticks around in the future.”

Live music returned to Cecil’s for the first time since March on May 15.  Doyle expressed his motivation for bringing live music back to the community as soon as possible. 

“In June Cecil’s will have been open for 12 years. We’ve been doing live music since we’ve been open. The fact that people seem to be ok with outside helps.  When we found out the day a few weeks ago. I was hoping that we’d be able to do it on May 15. So, I decided to go ahead and book the bands. We’ve had nice weather outside and there was a huge demand for it. It just adds to our atmosphere, and it’s something we’ve always done. As long as they allow us to do it, I want to do it.”

Doyle expressed that he and his staff are ready to see the smiling faces of the customers and friends who have supported them over the years.

“We love serving DeRidder, Doyle said. ‘We’ve got the full menu, and we’re ready to see you here.”

In the wake of uncertain times, one thing seems clear: The Tiger Burger will survive.

For more on Rebuilding America visit https://www.usatoday.com/rebuilding-america/.