Columbia restaurants, bars struggle after governor orders dine-in services to close

Updated: Mar. 18, 2020 at 7:55 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In downtown Columbia, restaurants are filled with empty tables, and there are open parking spots throughout the city.

Restaurants and bars across the Palmetto State are feeling the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, bars and restaurants were forced to close dine-in services. This comes after Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Tuesday afternoon.

The governor encourages these businesses to stay open with drive-thru and delivery options, but that still leaves thousands of workers out of a job.

Panera Bread delivery driver Cheryl Cooke has worked in the restaurant industry for 46 years. She normally works 30 hours a week, but this week, her hours have been cut to only 12.

“We’re all worried about losing our jobs, and we’ve all had our hours cut, including shift managers and managers,” Cooke explained. “I think everybody is very concerned about paying their bills and how they’re going to get by because we’re lower income employees."

She says she and so many of her co-workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and they were not prepared for this kind of emergency.

Restaurant owners are also feeling the effects of the pandemic.

At Village Idiot Pizza, owner Brian Glynn says about 30 employees are out of a job right now because they can only do take-out and delivery and the bar is closed.

“It’s a tough thing to look someone in the eye and let them know they don’t have a job when they’ve done nothing wrong,” Glynn said.

Cantina 76 owner Chad Elsey says he’s trying to hold on to staff as long as he can, but he’s also advising them to look into the state’s unemployment options.

“This is definitely devastating,” he said. “We’re hoping the the government steps in on both the state and federal level 'cause we do need support -- whether it’s paying employees, which is the main thing right now, and keeping everyone to work as much as possible. Hopefully, doing the to-go only will keep this going."

Wednesday, restaurants in Columbia participated in #carryoutWednesday -- a social media movement to help support local restaurants during this time. The City of Columbia has also marked several parking spots in front of restaurants for take-out orders only.

Restaurants that do not follow McMaster’s order to close dine-in area can receive a citation, but Deputy Chief Kelly says the Columbia Police Department wants to make sure every business understands the order before penalizing them.

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