‘We may not be able to survive:’ Small businesses struggle through coronavirus

Local initiative looks to increase carry out sales for Wilmington restaurants
Updated: Mar. 20, 2020 at 10:54 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Surviving the coronavirus pandemic isn’t just a worry for people; it’s a legitimate concern for many small businesses around Wilmington.

After Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order Tuesday, all area restaurants have shut down their dining rooms and have resorted to pick-up and carry out service.

For Hayley Jensen, owner of Skytown Brewing Company and Beer Barrio in Wilmington, sales have dropped drastically since Gov. Cooper’s mandate.

That’s why Caring to Deliver and Scott Adams, the creator of the Wilmington area - Take Out and Delivery Options Facebook group, started and initiative, designating Friday as national carry out day for Wilmington.

“Our food purveyors reached out to me and they wanted to focus on local restaurants with national carry out day, and because of the situation that we’re not able to serve food inside, it’s just perfect timing,” said Jensen. " I think people do want to come support us, so this is just a push so customers will come to local businesses and put money back into the community for people who are suffering through this."

Jensen says the initiative shows how much the community cares during this time.

“It’s really heart warming the way our patrons and local community has really banded around restaurants,” said Jensen.

Even with support, Jensen has seen sales drop 85 percent, and had to lay off 30 employees between her two businesses. Skytown and Beer Barrio are both sit-down restaurants and aren’t built to be take-out only.

“It’s a complete change of concept. We’re trying our best to adapt to that, but it really has just changed everything about how we do business. We hope the layoffs are temporary, but we really don’t know how long this will last,” Jensen said.

Having to let employees go was already hard, but that’s not Jensen’s biggest fear.

“It’s really scary. Everyone is being impacted by this virus, so it’s not just us. I hope I’m lucky enough to keep both of my places, but I really don’t know. There’s so much uncertainty,” Jensen said.

Jensen is holding out hope for some sort of relief from Gov. Cooper like pausing rent or utilities as the pandemic continues.

“I know they’ve talked about SBA loans, but I really don’t want to take on more debt right now when I don’t know what’s to come."

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