Houston service workers struggle as coronavirus disrupts bar and restaurant service – Houston Public Media


A sign on the door of the Midtown Axelrad bar announcing its closure. Bars and nightclubs are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and restaurants have been urged to limit service, leading to layoffs and uncertainty among service workers.

Lonne Martinec worked for a Goode Company restaurant for almost nine years. She was a waitress at Goode Co. Seafood on Westpark, and also worked to train new hires.

But last week the restaurant suddenly closed. It was shortly after the city of Houston announced that establishments that served food were only to switch to take-out and delivery service, in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“They told us we were going to be open only to take out for a short time,” said Martinec, 64. “And the people who showed up for take out all of a sudden… they said they had been turned back at the door and told to leave.”

Then, Martinec said, all of the employees in that place got a letter from the company, “that says you’ve all been fired, blah, blah, blah. If you have any of our property, you have to return it. “

Goode Company did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment, but on its Facebook page, the company said only four of its 11 restaurants remained open for take-out and delivery and that it had transferred some of its employees to help with deliveries to those locations.

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But many more are now unemployed.

“A best friend of mine has worked there for over 20 years, and she was fired. She’s a waitress,” Martinec said. “Another executive friend, who has worked there for 25 years, has been fired.”

This is true for probably thousands of service workers in Greater Houston, as restaurant ordering and now stay-at-home ordering across the county continues to change food service and shut down bars and nightclubs across the county. greater Houston area.

“Business has plummeted, the capacity of hotels and airports (in particular) in particular, the restaurants inside the hotel, the bars inside the hotel,” said Darnell Tingle, lead organizer. by Unite HERE Local 23.

The union represents around 3,000 workers in the hotel, concession, airport and gaming industries. Tingle said he expects layoffs of service workers to reach 80% within the next week.

“For now, we are just making sure that workers are able to collect unemployment, because it is a layoff and not a layoff,” he said. “We will make sure they are readily available to return to work when they are available.”

Until then, these workers have to look for other work or use unemployment benefits to help them get through this period.

Recognizing the impact on workers in the service industry in Houston, social activist Ali Lozano, whose girlfriend is a bartender, launched a “virtual tip pot” for them.

This is a Google document listing workers and their Venmo or PayPal information. And this is something that is being done in several other cities in the United States. Those who wish to be included simply complete a submission form.

“Essentially, the submission form translates directly and fills out in an Excel spreadsheet,” Lozano said. “And then all I did was put the Excel spreadsheet in a read-only privacy setting, so that everyone can see it but no one can edit it.”

The hope is that people will support the waiters or bartenders at their favorite eating or drinking places.

Lozano put the listing on social networks, where it has been shared by many others.

So far, it contains nearly 2,000 names, and Lozano said he heard anecdotally that people were in fact receiving money.

“A lot of the captions are ‘virtual tip’ or ‘thank you for the virtual drink,’ with really funny emojis and things like that,” Lozano said. “So that’s really cool to see.”

Martinec, the former Goode Company waitress, said she was lucky because she got a job as a delivery driver at a Star Pizza, where her husband is a manager.

She said that even if the seafood restaurant were to reopen, she would not try to get her old job back. Her plan now is to deliver pizza for as long as she can.

“It wasn’t how I expected to go out,” she said. “I had planned to work at Goode Co. for 10 years.”

For some business owners who are trying to take care of their longtime employees, the help available is limited. At the Clear Lake Hunan Restaurant, business declined throughout the month as people stayed home more often. With the city ordering, owner Xiaowei Zhu expects to lose up to half of his business, which is normally roughly evenly split between on-site dining, take-out and delivery.

He said many of his employees had been with him for years.

“I try to keep them because when they lose their jobs, they find it difficult to pay their rent and their meals,” he said. “But I don’t know how far we can go.”

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