Alaska restaurant industry recovers from economic impact from COVID-19

Published: Jun. 16, 2020 at 12:10 AM AKDT
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The restaurant industry is among the hardest-hit businesses by closures from the coronavirus. It's put restaurant owners to the test financially while employees are working limited hours, others furloughed, and some laid off.

"They say the first year is the hardest and then they handed me corona,” Alan Hammond said jokingly.

Hammond will celebrate his first year of business as the owner of the Alleyway Grille in July after he took over the iconic location of the Arctic Roadrunner in Spenard. When the pandemic hit in March, Hammond lost 80% of his revenue, eventually tailoring his restaurant to the new normal creating an online ordering system similar to Grubhub and Doordash.

"My main concern right now staffing because they're making more money not working then they are working," said Hammond.

Initially Hammond had to cut staff hours, but was able to secure two federal loans allowing him to keep his doors open along with staffing.

"It was reading, late-night studying instead of going to the bar, instead of playing video games,” Hammond said describing the effort it took to secure the loans.

While Hammond continues to recover financially many others in the industry want to get back to work. This spring Ian Fox was furloughed as a banquet server at the Captain Cook due to COVID-19.

"I do believe a lot of people were not very happy about this situation at all, but it had nothing to do about the powers at be,” shared Fox.

The longtime banquet server is optimistic he’ll return to his job, and is currently receiving unemployment insurance.