Following Gov. Ralph Northam’s public health emergency order prohibiting more than 10 patrons in restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters, most local restaurants are turning to to-go and curbside dining options only, and while some seem to be staying a-float, servers are starting to feel the pinch.
Before the coronavirus started to sweep the nation, Sarah Rogers and Melanie Carter, both servers at Badeaux’s Seafood and Grill in South Boston said the restaurant industry was always hit and miss with its good days and bad days as far as tips, but Rogers said, “It was enough.”
Now they’re starting to see hours being cut.
Rogers said on average she and her fellow servers would work four days a week and would leave each night with at least $80 in tips.
But, this week they’re down to only needing one at a time.
The last day Rogers worked, she was only able to work an hour or two before they sent her home due to slow business.
“It’s concerning,” said Rogers, who is a mother.
At the beginning of the week, she also had to begin dealing with additional expenses due to her children being home from school after the March 13 two-week closure of school.
She had just went grocery shopping and had to turn around and head back to the store after she heard news of the closure to make sure her children had enough for all three meals for the two weeks.
Also now, she’s forced to have to decide if it’s worth paying a babysitter to go into work for a couple of hours.
“It puts you in a real tight position,” said Rogers.
Others like Carter also are stuck trying to decide if it’s worth coming into work.
Being someone who is type I diabetic with a step-father at home who has undergone chemotherapy, not only is Carter worried about her financial situation, but she also doesn’t want to contract anything that she can spread to her family.
Now she’s debating does she take the one or two shifts for the week or does she give them to other servers just to be on the safe side.
“I don’t want to give (the virus) to someone else,” said Carter.
But at the same time, she’s wondering what her financial situation is going to be weeks from now.
Both Carter and Rogers also are eyeing proposed stimulus packages that could send checks to Americans, but they both agree they aren’t sure how that is going to pan out either or what the requirements and specifics are going to be.
Another worry Carter and Rogers have is when are people going to feel safe about coming out again to enjoy a night out at restaurants and when they do, are they going to be able to be as generous with tips as they were in the past since a lot of the public’s financial situation is up in the air right now.
“I don’t know how it’s going to pan out,” said Carter. “I’m hoping this thing goes as quickly as it came.”
Others like Ginger Hamlett, owner of The Packhouse in Halifax started seeing business drop off last week.
“It’s actually more out today,” Hamlett said Wednesday afternoon as she prepared quarts of stew and other soups she was selling so individuals could freeze it in case of a prolonged stay at home.
“We’re trying to come up with creative ways so local people will help support us,” she added.
She had made 80 quarts in two days.
In addition to selling the quarts of soup, she had been offering curbside service and had switched last week to all disposable products and had taken all of the items off the tables such as condiments.
She and her employees also are wearing gloves to deliver.
“We’re not taking any risks whatsoever. We’re regular changing gloves,” said Hamlett.
As far as hours affecting employees, she said the virus would probably effect hours this week, but they only have three employees.
Over at The Busy Bean in South Boston, owner Anne Eakes and her staff were busy Wednesday around noon putting the final touches on a large order for the Southern Virginia Higher Ed Center.
“The community has been more than gracious,” said Eakes with her experiencing customers leaving 30% to 50% worth of tips.
“It’s been over the amount they normally probably would have,” she added.
The dining room was closed – per the governor’s orders – and they were offering curbside service, but are allowing customers to come inside to pick-up orders.
“It seems like most people aren’t wanting to disrupt their routine,” said Eakes.
“I’m proud of our community. It’s a wonderful thing seeing people come together when we need them.”