It is no secret that the current economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic is not ideal for any businesses, and it can hit especially hard for smaller or locally owned businesses and restaurants.
Shki Chanhai, the owner of GRK YEERO, a Greek-Mediterranean restaurant on Franklin Street, said his business has been having an especially difficult time even with his restaurant still open for takeout and delivery.
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Chanhai said that even though his business has lost about 90 percent of its revenue during the pandemic, he does not want to close for fear of losing all the usual customers he has built up since bringing his restaurant to Chapel Hill.
“I have spent a lot of time and money to reach new customers. But right now I have been on Franklin Street for three years, and I suffered a lot to get in touch with the people and reach new customers and get usual customers,” Chanhai said.
Other Chapel Hill businesses have decided it's not worth it to stay open.
LOTSA Stone Fired Pizza has closed all its locations, and the Chapel Hill location has announced that it will be permanently closed.
Anthony DiGangi, chief operating officer for LOTSA, said the business was not bringing in enough revenue to justify staying open.
“There is a lack of foot traffic, and when you use third-party delivery services like Uber Eats or Grubhub, they take a 30 percent commission, and if your sales drop 75 percent and then they take 30 percent of the remaining 25 percent that you have, it's not worth it, and you end up losing more money,” DiGangi said.
DiGangi said while LOTSA is planning on permanently closing its Chapel Hill location, the decision is not 100 percent certain.
“Although Lotsa is currently closed, there is always hope that we will be back in Chapel Hill sometime in the future,” he said.
The Orange County Commissioners approved an emergency small business funding program to provide grants or loans to local businesses.
Amanda Garner, who works for Orange County Economic Development, said in an email that the review committee has representatives from the county as well as from Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.
She said they are hoping to approve loans by the end of April.
“The Town of Carrboro has a loan program that they are operating for businesses, and there are additional state and federal programs that have been put in place to assist businesses that we are referring business owners to explore,” she said.
The second round of applications for Carrboro's loans is due by May 5 at 5 p.m.
Chanhai said he has applied for three different forms of loans, including from Orange County and the state, but has not received any aid yet.
Bret Oliverio, owner of Sup Dogs, said he's been pleased with the level of support for local businesses coming from the Town.
“The downtown Chapel Hill partnership h2as been really helpful in terms of getting the word out about which businesses are still open, but there is only so much that the government can do at this point,” Oliverio said.
Chanhai said even though it has been difficult to stay in business, he does not want to close for the sake of his loyal customers.
“We’re a small business, but people really love us,” Chanhai said. “I don’t want to lose my spot and my business, that’s why I would like to keep going. I know it's tough, but I’m going to keep going."
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