Nearly 400,000 jobs have been lost in North Carolina’s restaurant and hotel industries because of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry advocates told state lawmakers Tuesday.
The halting of most travel and closing of dine-in service at restaurants has devastated the state’s approximately 18,000 restaurants and 1,800 hotels, said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. Businesses are asking for help from state lawmakers as they wait for federal emergency relief funds and the Golden LEAF Foundation is offering bridge loans
In a presentation to the N.C. House Select Committee on COVID-19’s Economic Support working group, Minges said many restaurants closed entirely after March 17, when dine-in service ended to ensure proper social distancing. Those that remain open are “essentially on life support,” she said.
“Many of those restaurants are limping along, on limited capacity serving only though drive-through, carry out and delivery,” Minges said. “But that is really not a sustainable model for them to be able to maintain for very long.”
The abrupt closure left little time for most restaurants to plan, Minges said. Owners are cash-strapped as their businesses’ incomes have dropped to a fraction of pre-pandemic levels; they are being forced to lay off employees for whom they don’t have enough work, she said. Many are making their existing payroll through credit cards.
Hotels are also beginning to see an enormous impact as business and leisure travel, concerts and conventions and other major drivers of the industry have stopped.