“If it was just me, I’d close down”: La Mex owner lays off 20 employees amid second shutdown

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 3:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Some Anchorage restaurants are following the rules, but say they are having to lay off employees just to survive this month-long shutdown.

It’s been a stressful couple of months for Trina Johnson, who has owned La Mex restaurant for more than thirty years.

“We’ve been slowly crawling back up that hill, slowly being able to hire back some of our employees, get them off of unemployment, get them to come back,” Johnson said.

She’s now figuring out how to survive another shutdown.

“I don’t know what we are going to do, I don’t know what the city is going to do, and it’s a very sad situation,” she said.

With customers no longer allowed to eat inside, she’s relying on her small patio and take out for business. She’s even had to layoff 20 of her 35 employees.

“As the bills grow and grow and grow and your sales go down and down, we’re down 30 percent, now closer to 40 percent, there is such a small profit in restaurants anyway that we’ll get to a point where we just have no more cash,” she added.

Johnson says the industry is being unfairly targeted by the Anchorage mayor. She’s convinced the majority of positive cases are coming from large gatherings and concerts. There’s also questions about enclosed outdoor dining.

“So what is the difference when I have an HVAC system that is circulating that air and pushing fresh air through there, it’s doing a lot more than an enclosed 10x10-foot tent where people are sitting next to each other,” Johnson said.

She's now reaching a breaking point.

“If it was just me, I’d close down and not reopen because the stress of this and the fight that it’s going to take, is going to be a big one,” she said.But the reason I’m in it is because of the few employees that I do have, I have employees that have been working here for thirty five years.”

Johnson says she was able to survive the first shutdown thanks to money from the federal government, but isn’t sure what help, if any, will be available this time around.

Channel 2 News has requested an interview with Anchorage Mayor Berkowitz for the past three days, and his office said he was unavailable, or they sent us a written statement from his spokesperson.

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