As COVID-19 shutdowns take effect all over the state of Florida, local restaurants, bars and other small businesses have been seriously impacted.
Many First Coast restaurants have moved to pick-up orders or even closed down completely to comply with the CDC recommendation of no more than 10 people in a gathering, as well as Governor DeSantis’ latest restrictions, which also included the shutdown of all bars for the next 30 days.
Restaurant closures could take a serious toll on many industry workers' livelihoods, especially those who work in local small businesses.
As Scott Swartz, owner of El Jefe in Jacksonville’s Murray Hill neighborhood, noted in an interview on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Wednesday, the food and beverage industry represents 12 percent of the state’s employment with 1.1 million workers.
“Larger companies that have been around for quite some time, they have the infrastructure and they have the financial ability to protect a lot of those jobs. The mom and pop independent, you know, it's going to be very tough on us... for the past 15 years I've been in the Jacksonville area we have really tried to build a food and beverage scene that the city is proud of. And...my biggest fear is that it could evaporate.”
Many in the industry are advocating for additional relief, as they can’t afford to take out more loans. Schwartz explained: “A lot of us... in the restaurant industry, you know, we're already carrying debt. And the last thing that we need is to take on additional debt and that goes across, not only the government assistance, which we would certainly welcome that, but what we need is disaster relief.”
Customers can support their favorite local spots by ordering delivery or purchasing a gift card to be used once restaurants reopen. Edible Northeast Florida is keeping an updated list on eateries offering to-go orders, delivery options and curbside pickup.
However, it is hard for many local businesses to create a game plan when it’s unclear what will happen next, and how long this will last.
“I think for us, the biggest concern is that there's going to be another change. That we're going to continue ordering supplies, continue making products and then have all of a sudden kind of a hard cut off.” said Corey Adams, co-owner of Southern Swell Brewing Co.
During these uncertain times, the community continues to support each other. Kevin from Fernandina Beach called in to First Coast Connect, sharing a story of locals banding together.
“Right before the bars shut down... I found out the manager at the local Winn-Dixie...came over and offered all their employees at the bar a full time job if they wanted it for the next 30 days. To keep them working and keep some kind of paycheck going for them. And I thought it was an amazing thing to do for our community up here.”
Sarah Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6317