Local economy may be COVID-19's next victim

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s been about a week since many restaurants closed their doors to dine-in customers thanks to COVID-19.

Beef 'O' Brady's business partner, Allen Cotton, sits at his empty bar after having to indefinitely end dine-in service because of COVID-19. (WJHG/WECP)

"Well our business has dropped by about 75%. We've gone from about 35 to a staff of about eight," said Allen Cotton, business partner of Beef 'O' Brady's in Panama City Beach.

Like most other bars and restaurants, his business has taken a hit from COVID-19.

Cotton said, "Unfortunately the staffing is going to go with the amount of business that we have and [when] business drops by 75% we gotta make cuts where we gotta make cuts."

Maria Goodwin of CareerSource Gulf Coast said she's already seeing the economic impact of COVID-19 on the job market. Goodwin said, "We are seeing an increased traffic of people coming in. They are wanting to job search, they're looking for other types of jobs because they had been laid off."

Goodwin said this is typically high demand season for the service industry which comprises about a third of the local economy giving COVID-19 an added blow to the are.

"It's that time of year where our businesses and our employees make a lot of their money from those tourists that come during the spring time," said Goodwin.

Cotton said in the meantime the restaurant is offering take-out and utilizing delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub.

"We've cut all of our expenses down to the bare minimum so we'll be able to make it through the storm. We will reopen, we will hopefully get our staff back, our regulars back and things will go great," said Cotton.

He also said last March was the best month of the year; he looks forward to this March being behind him.

Goodwin said filing for unemployment in Florida is referred to as re-employment assistance, and gives people $275 a week if you're eligible. But Goodwin warns the application process can be lengthy.

For more information on how to apply, see the attached link.

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