A group of restaurant and bar owners in Savannah is asking Gov. Brian Kemp for help getting through the coronavirus crisis.
In an open letter, the owners requested specific action, including immediate unemployment benefits for furloughed workers, business interruption insurance, and rent and loan relief for those affected.
Green Truck Pub owner Whitney Shephard Yates said restaurants are trying to stay afloat and pay their employees despite seeing far fewer customers.
“With the level of uncertainty around the pandemic and just not knowing if it's [going to] be weeks or months even, we know that it's not a sustainable solution just for us to keep trying to make payroll with no income coming in,” she said.
The restaurants are also seeking a state income tax credit for businesses which agree to keep paying employees despite closures.
“Many of our workers rely on tips and none of us have the option to work from home,” the letter said. “Savannah is home to many acclaimed bars and restaurants which are crucial to the ongoing success of the city. Within days, we may all be required to close. We will not survive without decisive action from your administration.”
Georgia's US Senators also have called for federal action to support small businesses, including letting federal borrowers restructure loans and defer parts of their payments.
Many bars and restaurants across the state are changing their operations to comply with the guidelines to avoid close contact. Some have switched exclusively to delivery and to-go options. Green Truck has removed tables and chairs from its dining room to keep patrons distanced from one another and staff.
Social media has been full of calls to support local businesses in recent days, and delivery service Uber Eats removed delivery fees for local restaurants to encourage people to order.
“We've always felt so supported by Savannah and by Savannah’s visitors, and that's continuing through this,” Yates said. “And so, if nothing else, that's the silver lining. People still appreciate the power of community and the power of good food and good company and coming together. And so that's been really important for us as we go into crisis management mode.”
Still, she said, business has already slowed down during what is normally one of the busiest weeks of the year. As the coronavirus crisis continues, Yates and many other restaurant owners expect they will need to close, whether by choice or by official request.