DEFIANCE, MO – Local businesses fear they won’t be able to get their employees back to work. Some workers are reporting their unemployment benefits are better than working.
Chandler Hill Winery and Vineyards in Defiance, MO has had to roll with several twists. The business is blessed with a large space that’s ideal for social distancing. Managers wondered, early on during the pandemic, if they’d have enough workers willing to return.
“The first initial polling of our employees about coming back in the very beginning – many I would say, close to half of our employees, did not want to come back and I can understand why/ They said they were getting more money, frankly, from unemployment than they were getting in a restaurant,” said Andy Kohn.
Kohn said it’s more than the money. He said some workers are concerned about their safety, and childcare. He added, “There’s no way they could guarantee what they would earn because many of our employees are based on tips so the initial response was very negative.”
Then there was a pleasant twist. After a few weeks, he now finds people changing their minds.
“I wanted to go back to work. I’m you, know I’m a hustler haha, so I’m just like let’s get this thing going,” said Martell Gregory.
Gregory says he’s far exceeded his weekly unemployment check, which was $820 a week.
“I made more money during the pandemic than I did last year and the years before. For just working for four hours, I walked out with well over $500 on one single shift.”
Kohn added, “The customers are so generous. It’s really, really nice to see.”
The challenges continue changing with a new surprise every day. Like Chandler Hill’s tasting bar. It was so popular, they had to close it.
“People were congregating around a bar doing wine tastings and we just deemed that not to be safe,” said Kohn.
They now bring tastings to people who are socially distanced. He says customers are recognizing how businesses are having to adapt, and they’re responding in how they tip workers.
Now the pressure is to stay in business. Kohn says it will be an economic disaster to operate at just a quarter capacity. He said he recently calculated it would take running at least 80 percent capacity during peak hours just to be able to break even. He says they’ll continue having to find ways to adapt so they don’t end up laying off workers all over again.