Lowcountry Headlines

Lowcountry Headlines


Industry leaders want South Carolina restaurants partially open by Monday

By Nick Reagan | April 29, 2020 at 7:23 PM EDT - Updated April 30 at 7:02 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Want to eat at a restaurant? On Wednesday, the AccelerateSC response team met for the first time and unveiled an optimistic approach to reopening restaurants.

Industry leaders say they want outdoor seating to be the first step and they are hoping to get that opened by Monday. Bobby Williams with the Restaurant and Lodging Association says if everything goes well, then they want to see limited indoor seating open no later than May 18.

That may be an ambitious timeline, but Williams says businesses are prepared to use disposable materials, take on extra cleaning and add technology to limit contact. As an example, he says many restaurants are already encouraging people to look up menus on their phones instead of using the ones at the restaurant.

Many businesses have concerns beyond state regulations.

First, is the availability of Personal Protective Equipment. Businesses – especially restaurants – need regular shipments of PPE, but their relatively small orders are often bumped by much larger ones.

One of the potential solutions coming from AccerelateSC is making one big order, facilitated by the state, that small businesses could draw from. However, there is a big price tag. The state estimates a 3 month supply of masks could cost $150 million.

Industry leaders are also concerned about what they are calling “recall resistance”. Basically, it means when a company goes to rehire the employees they laid-off or furloughed the employees do not want to come back to work. Because unemployment benefits are being boosted by federal dollars, some people are making more money by not going back to work.

To address this issue, the state is considering making businesses file recall notices. That would allow the unemployment office to stop sending benefits to employees who do not go back to work. However, this idea came with a mixed response from business leaders.

Senator Lindsey Graham says another thing they could do is adjust the federal program so employees on unemployment can’t make more than they would at work.

The state chamber of commerce did a survey of small businesses and about half of them say they need all of the state emergency regulations lifted before they can reopen.

Along with diminished cash flow, demand is one of the biggest issues. According to the survey, business owners simply aren’t seeing the demand they need to fully reopen their doors and they expect consumerism just is not going to be there for a while.

In a more concerning survey result, nearly half of small businesses say they had to lay-off or furlough employees but only 30 percent say they intend to bring them all back.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Photo: Live 5 News

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