By: Stefanie Williams
Guest writer and Charleston Food & Bev employee
@StefWilliams25 on Twitter
As I went to Harris Teeter yesterday and shopped like I had just smoked a tremendous amount of weed (I didn’t, but you wouldn’t know since I bought TGIFriday frozen mozzarella sticks, UnCrustables, some kind of Italian meatballs, a gallon of milk, a case of Coke and a container of port wine cheese), the severity of the situation really hit me.
I’m going to weigh five hundred pounds by the time the summer starts.
No, just kidding.
The reality is, we, as Charleston food and beverage workers, are about to see our industry take the kind of hit that shakes us to our cores.
When I lived in New York, it was 9/11.
When I graduated college in 2008, it was the financial collapse.
One thing I have learned, having been privy to spending a large swath of my time living in Charleston around some of the absolute best in the business, is the industry’s resiliency.
Seriously, I’ve seen people post bail to make their shift. Take a kayak to their job during a hurricane. Leave their child with an incredibly, incredibly responsible German Shepherd when childcare fell through and they had to make it to the restaurant.
If we’re good at anything (aside from drinking excessively without dying, hating on stupid people, ragging on people named Karen, and blaming the kitchen when we forget to ring in an item) it’s surviving.
Which is why I think it is imperative that the City of Charleston and the state of South Carolina do the incredibly difficult, but ultimately right thing, and mandate a hard two-week closing of all restaurants and bars.
It’s coming whether we want it to or not. And the slower we cave to the idea, the longer that situation will drag. Five restaurants this week. Six the next. Four the next.
We need to treat this thing like the horrid bandaid it is, and rip it off in order to ensure our industry will get some fresh air at some point and heal.
Two weeks closed in March is incredibly hard for most, if not all of us. But it’s a hell of a lot better than four weeks leading into April. Or six leading into our incredibly busy time, May.
Doing so will give people the green light to begin filing unemployment paperwork that might be needed, getting assistance where needed, and allowing the industry to make a plan to survive so once this thing starts to slow down, we can start to pick up again.
Dragging out the process, and trying to stay afloat in an angry sea surrounded by sharks is not the way to go. Valiant, in some ways, but definitely not industrious.
We all have to hold our breath and shut down and get on the same damn page, so we can all collectively turn that page in hopefully two weeks.
All we’re doing by keeping the restaurants open is delaying the inevitable and potentially dragging out a bad scenario and turning into a horrible one long term.
I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of Charleston food and bev. There are plenty more seasoned, experienced, particularly ornery people in our group that could do that far better.
But as one Charleston food and bev person who is scared, nervous, and like the rest of the country, will be struggling, I’m begging the restaurant collective to do what is hard, but what is best for all of us in the long run.
Save our industry by shutting us down now. Take advantage of the fact that no one is traveling, tourism is not what it normally is, and make the most of the quarantine to do what is right for all of us.
Do not cut off your nose to spite your face. Do not stay open an extra week that causes an extra two weeks of closures on the backend, the busy season, our money-making time.
There is no joy in any of this for any of us right now. But with the right leadership and the right decisions, like always, we can and will survive it.