‘It’s a whole mess of confusion’: Local service industry workers laid off talk coronavirus impacts

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first of the month means that bills are due for many. For the first time, hundreds of service industry workers are out of work due to the novel coronavirus, but they’re still expected to pay bills.

The impacts are expected to last at least another three weeks and are continually felt locally.

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

“So here I am, I’ve decided to sell some things, make sure I have my rent paid. Of all things that can’t go wrong, I can’t lose my house,” said Cassandra Petersen, a former waitress at Downtown Grill and Brewery.

Petersen was laid off after city restaurants closed dining rooms in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She worked at Downtown Grill and Brewery for year, it was her main source of income.

 “It’s a whole mess of confusion. I just don’t know what to do… I don’t know what to do, literally.” 

Cassandra Petersen, laid off at Downtown Grill and Brewery

Peterson says she lives with roommates, all former employees at Downtown Grill and Brewery, now unable to pay their April rent.

Downtown Grill and Brewery is offering their employees financial support, in the form of an online tip option, while they opted to close for two weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The option to Tip the Team is available as a way to support staffers, like Petersen, while the restaurant is closed.

She isn’t alone in feeling uncertain about the future and finances. Others in the local service industry are changing plans without a job.

“I know that now I need to be very very careful about my spending. I had a little bit saved up, because I was going to get married in October…” said Drew Lafasto, formerly employed at PostModern Spirits and Kabuki, as a waitress.

Lafasto said she has savings and isn’t worried about upcoming bills and payments, yet. She says she’s applied for unemployment and local support through Service Industry Coalition Knoxville’s relief fund.

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