The downturn in the economy is hitting everyone, but one sector of the Columbus workforce has taken a brutal and rapid hit — food service workers, especially those who work in local restaurants.
Dozens of restaurants have closed and the ones that are open are limited to takeout orders only. Since March 20, Columbus has been under a state of emergency ordered by Mayor Skip Henderson, One of the things that order did was prohibit dine-in customers.
Jeffrey Bowman is general manager of three downtown restaurants — Smoke Bourbon and Barbecue, Black Cow and Vertigo Fusion Kitchen.
He has been forced to make gut-wrenching decisions over the last 14 days as the restaurant business changed dramatically in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We have laid everything off from my assistant manager to the servers, the prep cooks, the dishwashers and the cooks among the three properties which I oversee,” Bowman said. “We have had to lay off 88 people total to retain 14 and the 14 who stuck around were willing to take lower pay just to allow Vertigo Fusion Kitchen and Black Cow remain open.”
And that’s happening in restaurants across the city, state and nation.
There are nearly 50 restaurants downtown and hundreds across the city. Thousands of restaurant workers are without a job or have had their pay slashed.
The Giving Kitchen, a Georgia-based non-profit that assists restaurant workers hit by a personal crisis estimates there are 20,000 food service workers in the Columbus area.
Giving Kitchen is providing financial assistance to food service workers in Georgia who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or those who are under doctor’s orders for a mandatory quarantine, and providing resource referrals through GK’s stability network to those who do not meet this criteria