By Ruth Thompson
According to Michele Wood, Office Manager at the Mill Wharf Restaurant, 75 employees will have to file for unemployment due to the restaurant restrictions.
“We’re down to five working employees,” she said.
In addition to the loss of dining patrons, Wood said the restaurant has lost money on several events that had been on the books.
Though the Mill Wharf is offering curbside service and delivery within Scituate, Wood said the restaurant is expecting to lose a great deal of food, and a complete inventory is being taken.
“What is terrible is that we cannot collect business interruption insurance,” Wood said.
According to Tim Carty, of Murphy Carty Insurance, it is extremely unlikely but not impossible for businesses to be covered under “interrupted business” for the loss of revenue due to the restrictions.
“Many insurance policies are boilerplate, where they’re written the same,” he said. “There could be different policies written differently, but it is extremely unlikely there is coverage for this. This is government imposed, almost like an act of war, where coverage is always excluded.”
Carty said the government needs to have some kind of plan or incentive to reimburse small business owners.
“I understand it is part of what they’re working on,” he said.
Kara Tondorf, owner of Rivershed, and whose family owns Riva Restaurant, also said there is no insurance coverage for this situation.
“I’ll certainly be researching loopholes but as of now my insurance broker has been unable to find any coverage or endorsements for something of this nature,” said Tondorf.
Senator Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, said he is “very committed to making sure all of our small businesses and their employees are taken care of during these unprecedented times.”
“I will continue to work with the administration and my colleagues in the legislature to make sure every effort is made to assist our small business owners and their employees.”
In addition, he pointed out, over the last two days, the Baker Administration announced a few financial resources that should be coming online soon.
A $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund has been set up to provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) has capitalized the fund and will administer it. Visit this link for more details: https://bit.ly/3d6A3td.
The Administration has formally requested that the federal Small Business Administration issue a declaration of economic injury for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program will offer businesses experiencing hardships resulting from COIVD-19 access up to $2 million in emergency loan capital with rates capped at 3.75 percent. This webpage will be updated accordingly when that takes place: https://bit.ly/3aT9Hcu.
Trying to stay afloat
Along with other restaurants in town, both Riva and Rivershed will be offering curbside meals, and Rivershed is planning to extend delivery services by the end of next week.
“We received a lot of support to close the restaurants prior to it being mandated,” Tondorf said. “The support from the community has been excellent.”
As many restaurants have had to do, Tondorf said she has had to cut back on staff.
“We are doing our best to take care of staff in whatever ways we can,” she said. “We are offering meals, etc., to those who can’t afford to go stock up on excess amounts of groceries.”
Functions and events have had to be canceled due to the uncertainty of an end date on the restrictions Tondorf is only canceling events that are due to occur prior to April 6.
“This is a stressful time for all of us and it’s times like these that should really point out that we are one human family,” she said. “This doesn’t discriminate. We have such little information about this that my only suggestion is to stay home and help make this pass faster then what is being currently speculated. I know we will all come out stronger from this and hopefully kinder, more resilient and more tolerant.”
Brian Houlihan, who owns several eateries in the area, including the Tinker’s Son in Norwell and The Galley in Scituate, took to social media offering a calming positive outlook on the situation. He and his staff are setting up a central kitchen where “family-style” hearty meals will be prepared to bring home and feed a family. This is a way to keep people fed and help keep some of his staff employed, he said.
Also, 20 percent of all the money received from takeout meals will go into a fund that will help ease the burden of his staff for the next couple of weeks.
“This is a lot to be dealing with and a lot of the staff has been here all day long with somber faces not knowing what to expect in the future,” he said. “I would like to help ease them by helping them out.”
He suggests people keep an eye on the restaurants’ websites for menu updates and other information.
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and we’ll see you on the other side of the bar pretty soon,” he wrote.
Lynda Ferguson, an owner and general manager at The Inn at Scituate Harbor said her business is definitely losing money.
“Reservations we had are already canceling,” she said. “Some of the people are older, and just don’t want to travel. Weddings that were scheduled in the area are canceling or are being postponed so people who were going to attend have had to cancel their reservations. Corporate clients have canceled because conferences and meetings have been canceled. And we lost a lot of reservations when the parade was canceled. We also have people who have left early.”
Due to the lack of guests, Ferguson said she has had to cut back on a lot of her staff.
“Looking ahead 30 days, we are vacant nearly every night. We have a few days where there are one or two rooms booked,” she said.
Even when the restrictions are lifted, and people are free to travel and go out to eat, Ferguson said it will take a long time for things to bounce back.
“This will be very far reaching,” she said.
Shops throughout town are handling the situation in different ways. Some have remained open with limited hours, others are offering curbside service only, and most are suggesting patrons visit websites and do their shopping online.
Small and large businesses work to adapt
Marie Flaherty, of Native, decided to close her shop to the public.
“As someone said, I don’t want to give in to the panic, but I don’t want to be part of the problem,” she said. “I’m a nonessential business. I’m not going to make any money during this whether I close my doors or not. People aren’t out buying gifts.”
Flaherty, who deals with international vendors and businesses, has been staying in touch via apps and social media, and is working with her artisans on designs for the future. She is also using this time to get more information and photos of her shop/merchandise up on her website, social media and blogs.
Realtors also need to keep a close eye on what is going on, and changing, in the market.
“At this point we haven’t seen significant impacts, though we are watching the transaction closing process very closely,” said Al Becker, executive vice president/COO of Jack Conway & Company Inc. “Recording deeds, inspections, appraisals are all possible areas where lack of human interaction could disrupt the process. Right now our agents can do most everything they need to do to market a property or show property to buyers through virtual tools. Also, all of the realtor’s part of the transaction is virtual already, from the offer to the close.”
Open House, listing and showing activity has been strong, he added.
“We are watching that carefully as human interaction is discouraged and we adapt.”
The last month of buyer demand has been quite strong, he said.
“Inventory in our market has continued to be very low and when the rates decreased the demand got even stronger. It is inevitable that the restrictions and caution people are taking with social distancing will have an effect. Because the market was so strong, and demand was so high prior to this intensifying, we feel that once we get through the school and business closings and social distancing, the market will come back strong.”
Jack Conway and Company has closed all of its sales offices and its headquarters is open only to essential employees processing transactions, Becker said.
“We’ve canceled all in-person meetings and training. We’ve moved to a completely virtual environment,” Becker said. “Our online training and conferencing has always been a part of what we do, so we have good systems on which to rely. Our leadership team has been most focused on the health and safety of our agents, managers and customers. We’ve spent countless hours over the last three days setting up systems and processes to keep everyone safe. We’re confident we’ve done that, and complied with what the government and medical professionals are advising.”
The animals are OK
The Scituate Animal Shelter has taken measures in an attempt to keep the animals, staff and visitors safe at this time, said Maryann Regan, executive director of the animal shelter.
“We are asking people to call us at 781-544-4533 or e-mail us at [email protected] to make an appointment to surrender an animal or adopt an animal,” she said. “We are also asking, for those who have made an appointment, to keep a healthy distance from our staff members and vice versa while at the shelter in person. We have also asked that our volunteers do not come in during this time.”
Staff members are taking care of the animals at the very high standards the shelter is to, Regan said.
“Everyone -- our staff, volunteers and supporters -- is extremely understanding and everyone is being very adaptable during this unknown time.”
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