SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Small businesses old and new continue to take a hit with the economic fallout from COVID-19. In the Hostess City, that’s especially so for restaurants.
Partners in life and in business, Don Holland and Ted Paskevich opened a restaurant in December in the Jepson Museum near downtown Savannah.
“It was a good three months and were looking forward to St. Patrick’s Day and a strong spring tourism season,” Holland told News 3.
However, the coronavirus drastically changed those expectations. The museum closed its doors and thus on March 13, so did their restaurant, Joe’s at the Jepson. They had 11 employees.
“When we gave them the news, our employees were real troopers about it,” Holland said. “We’re not exactly sure when we’re going to reopen.”
Nationwide, it’s estimated most restaurants only have about two to three weeks of working capital on hand. The new stimulus plan passed by Congress does allow help for small businesses in the form of direct payments to help pay the salaries of employees so those employees can be retained and low-interest loans for business owners through the Small Business Administration.
Holland said their employees were all retained from a staffing service. He has reached out to the restaurant’s lenders.
“Our banks have been very helpful to us, they have actually given us links to what we need to do so they recognize that small businesses are in the situation where we do need some extra help and sometimes it’s confusing to navigate,” said Holland.
He also told News 3 that at his last count there were “almost 1,000 places to eat in Savannah and some are closing their doors just like we did.”
But Holland and Paskevich believe this is truly temporary, saying the tourism economy can rebound. Still, they say reopening a restaurant is more difficult than businesses that have inventory that can simply be stored.
“It’s not like you can just open a door in the back where you have been storing tires, for example, and then somebody can just come in and buy a set of tires,” said Paskevich. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Paskevich says they will have to buy all new inventory of food stocks, including fresh produce and other items that his menu relies on.
“We need fresh everything,” he said.
While there is disappointment and likely worry about the loss of business in the last three and a half weeks, both Holland and Paskevich are determined the restaurant will be open again in what they say is “one of the most beautiful venues in Savannah.”
They are also counting on staff to return. “We hope it can be like a reunion,” Paskevich said.
The partners say they have been communicating with customers through social media, keeping them informed and even entertained as Paskevich has offered some of his expertise in normal everyday day recipes for the family.
They promise to let people know when they may be able to get going again but say with sanitizing the restaurant thoroughly and buying new food supplies, it would probably take at least a week to get up and running.