Restaurant business owners & employees navigate next steps in midst of COVID-19

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AUSTIN, TEXAS (KXAN) — Restaurant employees and business owners are seeing their worlds cave in after Governor Greg Abbott announced a state-wide mandate; limiting restaurant access to drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.

The Texas Restaurant Association is pushing Abbott to defer sales tax in the meantime. The association says this could help restaurant owners stay liquid.

“Defer the sales tax payment or come up with a payment plan to pay it back,” said Anna Tauzin, Texas Restaurant Association Spokesperson.” We understand it’s a tax and needs to be paid.”

Meanwhile, everyday restaurant business owners are seeing the hard-hitting effects of COVID-19.

Poke Jo’s Smokehouse is a chain restaurant that has five locations within the Austin area. Doug Bohne, the owner of Poke Jo’s says his revenue has dropped by 75% in the last two weeks.

“In the last week, we’ve had to adjust from 200 employees to about 50,” said Doug Bohne. “It’s the most gut wrenching thing we’ve had to do. I’ve been in this business 47 years, and I’ve never had to do anything like it.”

That’s nearly 150 people now set to apply for unemployment. KXAN’s Kaitlyn Karmout reached out to the Texas Workforce Commission to see what unemployment could look like for restaurant workers.

“Employers should be reporting tips as wages to the Texas Workforce Commission which increases any potential for benefit amounts. You can estimate your potential benefit amount on the Texas Workforce Commission website.  The answer to this question will vary from person to person,” said Cisco Games, Texas Workforce Commission.

As restaurant owners have had to lay off employees, they’re also trying to navigate what to do with unused food.

Dream Bakery, located in North Austin typically creates extravagant cakes for large events such as weddings. Now that those are canceled, they’re doing what they can to bridge the gap.

“We realized when the panic started hitting, is that people are in need of very basic things right now,” said Karen Fry, Owner of Dream Bakery.

Karen Fry decided to sell and donate raw goods like eggs, butter, milk and bread.

“Our suppliers had them. We want to make sure they are available to people,” said Fry. “We are donating them to anyone who is in need, in partnership with Wells Branch Community Church.”

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