ROANOKE, Va. – The coronavirus has hit businesses across Virginia hard. Due to social distancing, a lot of people can’t and won’t go into a store to shop or dine in at a restaurant.
The lunch rush at Evie’s Bistro and Bakery in Roanoke is usually bustling with hungry customers. Now, tables sit empty.
In Evie Edman’s 30 years running the place, she’s never experienced anything like what coronavirus has done to small business.
“It’s been really hard,” Edman said.
She’s had to adapt and sadly, was forced to cut back hours and lay-off workers. She is also switching to takeout and curbside pickup and offering a free slice of cake with lunch or dinner.
“That’s what we’re kind of hanging onto with a very limited staff,” Edman said.
Other restaurants and retailers are following suit, adding takeout, delivery and curbside pickup options.
Restaurants like Fortunato and Lucky are even adding family-style to-go meals. Star Hill Brewery is offering to-go beers. Virginia’s ABC also eased regulations so that restaurants can now offer wine and beer to-go.
Starting Friday in Virginia, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Virginia’s director of the SBA, Carl Knoblock, said that small business owners can borrow up to $2 million for a 30-year loan at a 3.75 percent interest rate.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure that business is thereafter this is over so they can help the economy grow and create jobs,” Knoblock said.
However, Edman said that taking a loan might not be an option for her.
“You run on such a thin margin with a mom-and-pop restaurant," Edman said. "It’s a lot to go into debt when you don’t have much to begin with.”
That’s why she said she’s relying on her loyal customers, advertising online and on social media, and hoping life gets a little sweeter soon.
“I’m hoping some things will change where mom-and-pop restaurants won’t go away," Edman said. "We can survive somehow.”
The Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center is offering webinars for local small businesses about the disaster loan program and how to apply.
Downtown Roanoke, Inc. is also compiling a list of all the alternative options stores and restaurants are offering.