Community Issues

Restaurants Struggle With Closures During Coronavirus Crisis

Do they stay open for takeout and delivery or shutdown entirely? Owners discuss the difficult decisions they’re being forced to make

As communities across America deal with the new normal of social distancing and businesses closing to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, restaurant owners are trying to find their place.

In some states, like Pennsylvania, bars are closed and restaurants can no longer host diners inside. Instead, they are only allowed to serve meals by take out or delivery. That leaves a challenging question for owners like Jim Totin of Totin's Diner in Wexford, north of Pittsburgh. He made the difficult decision to close his doors entirely. It was not an easy decision.

Even in his decision to close, Jim is trying to look out for his employees and community. He has been donating food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The kitchen is closed, employees laid off at Totin's DinerSparkt/Patrick O'Connor

In Pittsburgh's Strip District, the Smallman Street Deli is another restaurant struggling with the decision to remain open. Jeff Cohen owns the deli and also owns the wholesaler Weiss Provisions. For now he's keeping both businesses running on a skeleton crew, but doesn't know if or how long that is sustainable.

For both of these men, it's the first time they've ever had to lay off employees. You can tell from talking to them, the decision is a painful one, but when they felt they needed to make to help protect their employees. Laying off their workers allows those employees to immediately file for unemployment help.

How can you start something good?

Unemployment Benefits Finder

The federal government is allowing new options for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where:

  • An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
  • An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
  • An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
  • Find your state’s unemployment information here
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