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Oklahoma Restaurant Association says pandemic is still hurting restaurant owners

Posted at 9:02 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 22:02:21-05

TULSA, Okla. — The continued increase in COVID-19 cases is still impacting businesses in our area. The pandemic has shutdown thousands of restaurants nationwide.

According to Jim Hopper, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, at least 900,000 restaurants have closed their doors nationwide since the pandemic began.

Congress passed 28.6 billion dollars in restaurant relief money to help those struggling.

Hopper said, Oklahoma submitted more than 2,000 applications, requesting nearly $318 million in relief. He said about 34 percent were approved, totaling more than 100 million in aid for Oklahoma restaurants.

He said the grant money was gone in 21 days and now the restaurant industry is asking the federal government to replenish that fund.


“We’re trying to work on getting a replenishment of that people that have already been approved could get a loan, not a loan, but a grant just to help them survive," Hopper said.

He said the restaurant industry estimates it needs another 40 billion dollars to help small restaurant owners that are struggling.

Johanna Hayes owns Bramble Breakfast and Bar as well as Bird and Bottle.

“The restaurant industry is very hard, the pandemic has made it harder,” Lauck said.

She's no stranger to continued challenges in the restaurant industry.

Mandy Lauck manages the Bramble restaurant at the Pearl District location. She works with Hayes to mitigate many of the daily challenges.

“You want to make sure there are people that are taking care of your guest the right way, we’re just not seeing those people come through the doors. They’ve left for other industries,” Lauck said.

Hayes said the shutdown forced them to lay off more than 150 employees. Since reopening, she said about 90 have returned to work. Now, the health of their workforce is once again a concern.

“I’ve now got two staff members, just in the last few days that are sick, so we will be running short-staffed this week on top of already being short-staffed, we will be even shorter,” Lauck said.

While they are spreading themselves thin, they are also trying to protect the few employees they do have. Monday, they closed to keep their employees from burning out.

Staffing is not the only struggle. Even their menu has taken a hit due to supply chain issues.

“We’e got a few items that we just got to take off the menus, that’s tough, because people want to those items,” Lauk said.

Lauck said they try to let their customers know when an item is back even if it's only temporary.

“The biggest thing we ask for is patience and grace, you know we’re doing the best that we absolutely can, so when you do come out and see us, we love that you’re here, just be patient because that server that you feel isn’t coming to your table and filling your tea probably has six other tables on top of yours and she’s just doing the best she can,” Lauck said.

In the midst of all the hardships, she said they are grateful for the support they have received from the community.

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