Small businesses struggle to stay afloat and pay employees

NEW CARLISLE, Ind. - Small businesses in Indiana and Michigan, losing almost all their customers because of mandatory closures. Now they’re looking for some relief.

St. Patrick’s day is a huge day for small businesses around the country including here in Indiana but after Governor Eric Holcomb announced that bars and restaurants have to close to dine-in customers, many struggling to stay afloat.

Steve and Mary Brooks, the owners of Kate O’Connors Irish Pub tell ABC57 their restaurant bar is normally full on St. Patricks Day.

“Jammed packed, every seat is full,” both Brooks said. “Our busiest day of the year typically but now it’s our slowest day, unfortunately.”

Dark rooms and empty chairs are all you can see in restaurants around Indiana, many having to rely on deliveries and curbside pickup to make income.

For small business owners, this is detrimental.

“It’s 90%. It’s shut down basically but it’s something we have to do so I’m okay with it,” Eli Stevens, the Co-owner of Long Shots Bar and Grill said.

“We’ve currently lost about 90% of our business. We’re doing take-out orders which helps but obviously it’s not compared to what it used to be,” Steve Brooks said.

It’s important to note that not only are business owners affected by dining room closures, but those who work there are as well.

“Trying to keep our employees working. That’s going to be the hard part, the employees,” Stevens said.

In the coming weeks, if we don’t see a change, we may see unemployment numbers rise.

“We’re asking our servers and cooks to apply for unemployment, we’re doing the best we can to keep them employed but there is just not enough to do,” both Brooks said. “We’re very fearful. We can’t give them the hours then they’ll have to go somewhere else and I’m not sure where they are going to go because none of the restaurants are open.”

With only takeout or drive thru’s open now, running an already difficult business is becoming nearly impossible.

Although owners are trying to keep paying employees, if the closures continue into the summer, many say there’s no way they can keep up.

“Well we probably won’t be Kate O’Connors anymore,” Mary Brooks said. “We won’t be here at that point. We don’t know how somebody can survive in this industry. To-go orders, you just can’t survive in this industry.”

“That’s the hard part unless they find a way to reimburse us for the loss so we can pay them. It’s going to be hard to keep anybody,” Stevens said.

Small towns like New Carlisle are really feeling the effects of coronavirus legislation.

Businesses there are either closed down or open and struggling to stay open and hoping for some relief soon.

But how are officials trying to help?

“The ISBDC yesterday, the organization had put out a survey to find all businesses that are impacted. We needed that information to be able to go the governor and have him help to declare disaster assistance. That is step one in the process. That’s where we are right now,” Stacy Poynter, the Indiana District Office Director for the U.S Small Business Administration said.

Poynter said they are well on the way to getting the disaster declaration soon. Hopefully even this week.

Meaning those who apply can get up to $2 million in loans for a max of 30 years.

He tells me each business is different and qualifies differently.

When sending the survey out yesterday, they expected it would take days to get a thorough response from the community, but it actually just took hours.

“In a period of 4 or 5 hours, they had over 1600 small businesses that filled out that survey. 1,600 in just a 4, 5-period time frame so I think that’s pretty significant,” he said.

“I’m hoping they will be able to offer us some aid so we can pay our employees. That’s our main concern because most live paycheck to paycheck,” Mary Brooks said.

Poynter said that for businesses currently struggling there are loan and lending programs out there. Click here for the lender program and here for more information on loan programs.

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