Among some of the most impacted by the pandemic are also the most financially at risk. By the thousands, bar and restaurant employees have been furloughed until officials withdraw sanctions against gathering spaces.
Currently, restaurants are still being allowed to provide to-go meals and deliveries since dining rooms are under ban. Unfortunately, these operations are running with either limited staff or have been forced to close completely. The aftermath of the ordinance leaves bartenders, servers, hosts, barbacks, cashiers and most front of house staff with a sudden halt to income.
Popular Neptune Beach taqueria and tequila bar, the Flying Iguana, was forced to close its doors due to operational overhead amidst the dining room ban. Dwight Mosby, executive sous chef, said he, like many others, is currently “just waiting.
“There is no specific date to reopen, because we know as much as everybody else, which is nothing,” Mosby said. “Everybody is playing it by ear because nobody has dealt with something like this before. We are just rolling with the punches. I think I speak for most people in the industry by saying the worst part of it is not knowing.”
Mosby said due to the nature of the industry, some employees are immediately worried about making rent and paying car loans only days after the dining room ban took effect.
“A lot of our front of the house people live paycheck to paycheck, if not day to day,” he said.
Currently, Mosby and other management staff have been working to help support their co-workers by assisting with loan deferment plans and supplying them with leftover food the restaurant was holding prior to closure.
The restaurant and bar industry have shown great support within the community during the crisis, however. Many restaurants still in operation are supplying discounted or even free food for those affected by the pandemic.
TacoLu, a Jacksonville Beach Mexican restaurant, advertised a free meal for industry workers who’ve been furloughed on March 18.
The program was such a success, they’ve decided to extend it as long as there are restrictions on bars and restaurants during the COVID-19 threat.
“We will give two complimentary tacos and a soft drink,” said general manager Eric Douglas. “All they have to do is bring some sort of form of identification or paystub or scheduling app for the restaurant, bar or nightclub that has been closed. It's not a lot but it's something that we are trying give back to those that are already affected by this.”
TacoLu, which currently is doing curbside pickup outside the front of the restaurant, announced via Facebook they intend to continue to offer the deal as long as they are in operation.
“We aren't opposed to it getting really busy,” Douglas said. “We are not going to 86 the idea. We set it in stone and that's what we want to do. To-go orders have been very steady for us. We've been very fortunate.”
While Douglas said they are currently only doing an average of 33% in sales compared to normal operations, he is happy they are able to provide for other industry professionals and is impressed with many to-go orders they have been getting.
Additionally, Douglas says he “feels blessed” TacoLu, “still [has] got people on payroll.”