Some Suncoast restaurants launch employee assistance fund to help workers during coronavirus pandemic

Updated: Apr. 7, 2020 at 4:07 PM EDT
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St. Armands, Fla. (WWSB) - Restaurants on the Suncoast now trying to survive on take out, many closing down during the pandemic. A lot of them having to let their workers go, which is one of the toughest decisions a business owner has to make.

“We can run it just myself and Jeff my manager, we can do it by ourselves, so we’ve had to cut way back,” said Gus Escalera, Co-Owner of Ripfire Pizza & BBQ.

That’s the story for most restaurants. The Columbia Restaurant Group temporarily closed all of their street side locations. They own thirteen restaurants in Florida including two on St. Armands. They say they are taking care of their 1400 employees during the pandemic.

“We are covering their medical expenses through the end of April at least, but we’re also doing twice weekly meals that they can pull up and pick up at each restaurant,” said Jeff Houck, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for The Columbia Restaurant Group.

In addition,they have started an employee assistance fund similar to what some other restaurants are doing. People are purchasing their gift cards on their website with all the money going to their workers.

“It’s important for us to do this because these people are our family and if you can take care of them during the good times, you should try to do it when it’s bad times as well,” said Houck.

For more information on the employee assistance fund you can log onto

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