MALVERN, Ark. – The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a longstanding restaurant in Malvern to close it’s doors. Western Sizzlin’ has been open more than 40 years. Owners say since the pandemic hit, their sales have dropped dramatically forcing them to shut down.
Michael Bailey remembers his first day on the job at Western Sizzlin’ like it was yesterday.
“You know when we first opened up here there was nothing, the bypass had just been built so we were the only thing here,” Bailey said.
He started off slicing the steaks but in just a few short years he was the one running the kitchen.
“In 1984 I purchased it,” Bailey said.
From 1984 to 2020, this southern steakhouse became a Malvern staple. Steven Michael says it played a big part in his high school days.
“Where are you going after the football game? Well we’re going to Sizzlin’,” Michael said.
From postgame meals to first jobs, just about everyone in this community has a story from one of the booths.
“I washed dishes first then went to the fried potatoes and the baked potatoes and then moved up to fry cooking and that’s where the real money is at,” Michael said.
He said Bailey taught him the ins and outs of running a business and of course, how to get the perfect char.
“He taught me how to cook a steak and that’s how I cook a good steak today,” Michael said.
Lately, it’s been tough to keep the grill running and food moving out the door.
“We’re probably doing 25 percent of what we were doing this same time of year last year,” Bailey said.
With a dining room of empty seats and little to no cash coming in, this pandemic is forcing the doors closed all together.
“When you do something all your life it’s hard to walk way from,” Bailey said.
For Bailey, this isn’t just a restaurant or a job. It’s a place he’s poured his heart and soul into. It’s a second home.
“You feel like everybody is family,” Bailey said.
Once the lights go dark, it’ll leave a hole not just for Bailey but the entire Malvern community.
“We will miss this place. It’s been an icon to Hot Spring County and the surrounding area,” Michael said.
June 21st is the last day Western Sizzlin’ will be open. They will be doing curbside service until then.