Hospitality workers across the state form coalition asking government for help

Posted at 9:39 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 23:58:33-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — While many bars, stores and restaurants across the country close their doors temporarily because of the Coronavirus, one group is banding together. Tennessee Action For Hospitality is comprised of chefs, independent restaurant owners and hourly workers from all across the state. Like others, they've closed their doors but they're asking for local and federal leaders for help.

In just two days more than 30 Tennessee chefs got together to send Governor Bill Lee a letter asking for financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

One of those chefs was Julia Sullivan. Sullivan opened Henrietta Red in Germantown just three years ago. This week has been the first time she had to close her doors.

"We’re all very worried about our personal well-being, but I think we’re worried about the economy and the restaurant as well and having a place to go back to," said Sullivan, who's business was just recovering from losing power from the tornado.

"If this goes on for four to eight weeks or more, losing some of these small independent establishments is a realty," said Sullivan, "There are going to be some businesses that don’t make it through the end of this.

That is why Sullivan and many others have formed the Tennessee Action For Hospitality. They're asking local and federal leaders to suspend tax payments, loans and rent. They want the max paid out on unemployment benefits to hourly workers, a cash stimulus package and for insurance companies to cover loss revenue.

"Support when asking insurance companies some of our loss of revenue here so we can continue to have the cash flow to pay our accounts payable, to pay our employees health care," said Sullivan.

In the end, Sullivan says these local independent restaurants want to survive.

Below is a list of the requests for Tennessee Action For Hospitality

  • Immediate emergency unemployment benefits for all hourly and salaried workers furloughed during this crisis. We need a direct lifeline for our workers with no waiting period.
  • Ensure 75% pay for unemployment.
  • Eliminate payroll tax immediately.
  • Support in our call for rent and loan abatement for workers and restaurants impacted.
  • Requiring insurance companies to cover loss of revenue.
  • Abating sales tax and LBD tax payments.
  • A cash stimulus package.
  • Loosen restrictions on alcohol sales

Representative Bill Beck (D-Nashville) brought some of the requests on the House floor as an amendment, but the issued was tabled as lawmakers worked to quickly pass a budget.