WINCHESTER — Servers, bartenders and restaurant workers know that when the weather starts to get nice, more people come out to spend money. But what happens when something like the coronavirus interrupts that and now those workers are scrambling for tips or stuck with no paycheck?
Frightening and scary — that’s how at least two workers in the food and beverage industry have described the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s affected their liveliness.
Tiana Atkinson works as a cook at Cracker Barrel in Woodstock, but she is out of work right now while the restaurant remains open for only take-out orders.
Atkinson is waiting to see how Cracker Barrel’s retention pay plan will work, but right now she and her roommates, who also work at Cracker Barrel, are trying to figure out how to pay the rent.
“I just moved out of my house last month, so I’m paying rent and buying groceries. Without a job, it’s scary,” she said. “My roommates, they’re depending on me to pay my share of the rent. We’re all struggling. If we can’t pay, where are we all going to go?”
Jayson Morgan, a bartender at Winchester Brew Works, is doing everything he can, too, to provide for his girlfriend and two children at home.
Winchester Brew Works has switched to delivery and to-go orders. And while he said he’s thankful to still be getting hours, tips just aren’t the same.
“On a good Friday or Saturday, you can easily make $300 to $350 and we’d do anywhere between $1,200 and $1,800 in beer sales. Obviously, we aren’t keeping up that pace now, so there are definitely losses,” he said.
When businesses started reducing hours and services, both Atkinson and Morgan said they felt a bit of shock and worry.
“Wondering how are we going to do this and pay bills and not knowing when it’s going to end. It’s not something you can fully plan for,” Morgan said. “You can’t say, ‘Let’s hold money for this amount of time and we’ll make it.’ You’re kind of flying blind. It’s pretty frightening.”
Morgan said the Winchester community has done a good job of supporting local business and that his regulars still come to see him and pick up orders, mostly trying to leave good tips. Working, too, helps a little to keep his mind off what’s going on.
Meanwhile, Atkinson said being stuck at home hasn’t been the easiest.
“It’s been very stressful, because we’ve just kind of been stuck in the house and not really knowing more than knowing it’s bad and that there’s nothing we can do about it,” she said. “We’ve just got to sit and wait for things to get better.” It’s really stressful that things are happening and there’s nothing I can do but stay home and keep my hands washed.”