A group of local business owners in the hospitality industry is asking lawmakers for help as they try to emerge from closures due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

The Triad Food and Beverage Coalition polled several business owners and industry workers in the region. They used that information to create a list of policy recommendations for local, state and federal officials. The white paper outlines their safety and financial needs.

It includes a request to modify the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and protection from lawsuits by employees or customers regarding illness or death from COVID-19.

Algenon Cash owns Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream and Skrimp Shack in Winston-Salem and is director of the coalition. He says they also hope to see a local stabilization fund to help restaurants and bars adjust.

“Those transitions come with costs and you've got to be able to stock up to inventory, you may need to make adjustments to the actual infrastructure of the business itself and they are going to need additional support and access to capital to do those things," says Cash.

Claire Calvin owns The Porch Kitchen and Cantina in Winston-Salem. One of her employees there recently tested positive for the coronavirus, so she decided to temporarily close that location and another restaurant.

Calvin says she's encouraged by recent state legislation that expands outdoor dining but says more is needed.

“Our officials are going to tell us what to do to stay safe. OK, great. We can try to do those things, but help us put in place a financial plan," she says. "To operate on 40 percent of capacity is just tough. And so many restaurants are going to need support not just today but until we get back to the point that this is behind us.”

North Carolina lawmakers are also considering whether or not to allow the sale of mixed drinks to go.

The group's effort comes as two long-time restaurants recently announced they're closing for good: Mary's Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem and the Smith Street Diner in Greensboro. 

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you're experiencing.

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