Workers, businesses look to adjust to coronavirus crisis effects on service industry


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As restaurants, bars and other businesses in the service industry shorten hours, move to take out only or close temporarily across the board. Everyone feels the impact.

Neal Green, owner of All Occasion Catering, says he can definitely feel the effects.

“Every ready rack would normally be full of food ready to go out to our customers or someplace,” said Green. With empty coolers and refrigerators turned off, his typically bustling business is quiet.

Green says after canceled events due to COVID-19 concerns, the business went from more than 50 events scheduled down less than 15.

“Our business has dropped to nothing for at least the next three weeks and we’re seeing cancellations coming in as far as towards the end of May at this point,” Green said.

With many of his employees not getting paid, Green is doing what he can do, which is feeding them.

“Twenty-five employees plus our part-time people won’t be getting shifts as weddings are having to postpone,” Green said.

They join dozens of others in the service industry employees losing jobs as restaurants and bars shorten the hours they are open or close outright.

Drew Lafasto learned Postmodern Spirits was closing temporarily Wednesday. She works two jobs, one as a bartender at PostModern Spirits and as server at Kabuki.

“I’m feeling a lot of nervousness in everything right now mostly because I don’t know what may lay ahead. It kind of causes a lot of anxiousness for people in the service industry. It does put me in kind of an iffy spot,” Lafasto said.

To support their industry, a group of friends, who also work in Knoxville’s thriving service industry, created Service Industry Coalition Knoxville back in January. At the time, the group couldn’t have imagined their idea to form a united group would be needed so severely in the months to follow.

James Gullett, one of the founding members of that group, says everyone is affected.

“It’s servers and line cooks, bar backs, cocktail waitresses, the managers too. This stems all the way to the owners,” Gullett said.

Now, that same coalition is hoping the community they serve everyday will support them in uncertain times.

A GoFundMe, called the Knoxville Industry Relief Fund, was created to help service industry employees with whatever they may need during the closures and cut-backs.

“Sometimes in the service industry you feel like you are a bit forgotten about. But, you know, you’re meant to give people what they want and in this it shows that we are not invisible in the city at all,” said Gullett.

Many community members have been concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on businesses in downtown Knoxville. The health of any business depends on its workers. We are organizing this mutual aid fund to help alleviate the vulnerability of a community that has been the backbone of downtown Knoxville’s culture, economy, and livelihood.

Knoxville Service Industry Relief Fund

Gullet says employees who are out of work can apply for funds from the GoFundMe online. recipients will be chosen on a case-by-case basis, in the order they applied.

To aid in these fundraising efforts, Riot Printing is selling a t-shirt donating all of the proceeds from the sales to the fund.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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