COLORADO SPRINGS — The COVID-19 pandemic has not left one life unchanged. News5 continues our mission to help everyone get back on track as we all find ways to cope and adjust to a new way of life.
Many of those most directly impacted include restaurant and bar owners and their employees. We sat down with the owners of The Hatch Cover in Colorado Springs to see how the recent shutdown and necessary change of normal business has impacted their bottom line as well as how they are finding a way forward.
The Hatch Cover has been loved by many in southwest Colorado Springs but in an instant, things changed.
“The night of, we were so packed (with guests) on the 16th. We were a full house. I got home from work around 4:30 p.m. and said hi to my wife and kids and Gov. Polis was on the TV saying effective immediately (restaurants need to close) and we got some food in our kid’s hands and came back and shut down the restaurant,” owner Rob Hirt said.
Rob Hirt has owned the Hatch Cover for almost 19 years. He and his wife Susan have about 75 employees between Hatch Cover and Mother Muff’s Kitchen and Spirits in Old Colorado City.
“The first thought that I had was fear for our employees. I know that a lot of them work paycheck to paycheck and they’re dependent on the income coming in and I was really worried about them,” owner Susan Hirt said.
Right away about half of their workers stayed on the job working modified shifts and filling to-go orders. The other half
volunteered to stay home since they had some savings, but that quickly ran out.
“We spent a lot of money during the month of March and April when we didn’t have any assistance... just keeping the place running and losing to the tune of $5,000, $6,000, or $7000 weekly. Keeping people employed and ordering products, paying previous months bill they don’t go away,” Hirt said.
The Hirts applied for and received the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan. But, they were worried employees may not come back.
"(Some said) I’m making this much money now, are you able to match that? Well, we said, we’ll do our best. I can’t say a $600 stimulus check plus unemployment check at 60 percent of normal take, no way we can reach that. But we can increase your paychecks,” Rob Hirt said.
75 percent of the PPP has to go to employee salaries. So for the next 8 weeks they plan to pay them up to 100 percent of their take-home money, instead of the 60 percent they were getting on unemployment. As a result they say almost all of their employees are coming back.
The other 25 percent of the loan goes to utilities, mortgage, rent, insurance, etc. If used the way it’s intended all may be forgiven.
While learning to navigate this new world, and sometimes confusing memos from state agencies, and helping teach their kids who are out of class, they also took advantage of the opportunity to do things they normally couldn’t.
"Deep cleaning the places we don’t have the opportunity to normally get to. TV’s are coming off the walls, we’ve been painting,” Rob Hirt said.
They’re also refinishing the floors and bar.
The Hirts say being able to sell drinks with their to-go orders has helped a lot. While they say business is down about 90 percent the community has shown their support. Servers are getting big tips and one regular even offered their stimulus check to be divided between employees. They say moments like that really keep them going.
“I’m most looking forward to being here on a Friday night, and being so busy I don’t have time to sit down in the office and do paperwork,” Susan Hirt said.
The restaurant industry is tough enough as it is, and the Hirts say while they’re learned some tough lessons through this, and continue to do so, they’re optimistic they’ll be able to rebound and come back stronger than ever.
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