Restaurant owners join forces to cope with pandemic impact

Local News

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) Restaurants have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. According to the National Restaurant Association the industry lost $215 billion in sales between March and October. Now some local restaurant owners are teaming up to make sure their calls for help are being heard by the right people.

“We’ll take money out of our own pockets, we have,” said Paul Smith at The Pitch in Dunbar, WV. “We’ve had to make ends meet. We’ve had to make payroll and purchase food out of our own pockets and those are steps that I know all businesses owners are taking to keep themselves afloat.”

Smith and his partners had big dreams for The Pitch and the potential at Shawnee Park with the new soccer facility next door. But COVID-19 derailed their plans.

“This is probably one of the worst hit restuarants in the area,” he said.

Smith said a business built around being together simply can’t thrive during a time when people are supposed to be apart. He realized his situation is not unique so he’s teaming up with other restuarant owners to make a difference. They are calling the group “Eat Small WV”. Together they are reaching out to lawmakers locally and in Washington, D.C.

Teri Blevins owns a small bakery in St. Albans, WV. She said without help shops like hers can’t survive.

Lil’ Bit of Heaven Cupcakes in St. Albans, WV.

“I’ll fight for Lil’ Bit of Heaven Cupcakes and have with everything in me,” she said, about her business. “But I and every other restuarant and bakery owner need somebody to be fighting for us.”

Blevins said between March and July her bakery lost $38,000 in wedding revenue alone.

“Not only were weddings being canceled, for obvious reasons, some were rescheduled. Maybe the original estimate was for 350 people and now it is 20,” she said.

Carrying the burden with no end in sight is daunting.

“I would say in the past nine months I probably have had maybe seven nights where I didn’t wake up at 2 in the morning having a massive panic attack, hypervenilating, chest is pounding, blood pressure is through the roof,” Blevins described.

As things get increasingly more desperate the restaurants in the “Eat Small WV” group are hoping leaning on one another will help more local restaurants survive.

“We are really being hopeful for this, but this is just not a good time for us right now,” Smith said.

Last week in Charleston, 18 businesses were awarded a total of close to $77,000 in Small Business Investment Grants during the first grant cycle. The second grant cycle is currently open and will conclude Friday January 8. To apply click here.

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