Listen Live

INDIANAPOLIS — Imagine owning a restaurant in downtown Indianapolis for 23 years with the staff you’ve had since the beginning. Then because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you have to let those employees go.

That’s the reality for Mikado, a restaurant on Illinois Street.

“It’s hard because I still think of everybody as my employees, but they’re not anymore,” said Connie Lee with Mikado.

Lee says that the hardest part is letting those employees go, but with almost zero income, she says, it’s impossible to keep people around.

She says she thinks the restaurant can survive another month or so, and if her employees need anything she urges them to reach out to her.

“We have food. I can order food in and things like that.”

Lee’s also been telling her employees about the Hospitality Relief Fund. It’s a one-time $500 grant from the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association for hotel workers, servers and other industry workers who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know our staff is talking to, and has been for the last month, talking to many of our members each day trying to walk them through how to grapple with this current landscape,” said Director of Operations for InRLA, Elise Shrock.

Shrock says they’ve received nearly 5,000 applications and are fundraising as much as they can to help as many people as they can.

However, she says once this is over it isn’t going to be like a light switch and everything is flipped back to what it was. She says she doesn’t know what it will be like but knows everyone is looking forward to getting back to work.

“Our hospitality scene is a huge driver of what makes Indy and the state what it is.”

Eligibility for the grant:

  • Must be 18 or older
  • Worked on a part-time or full-time basis in the hospitality industry in Indiana for at least 90 days in the last year

Shrock said they will be temporarily closing applications on the InRLA website on Wednesday at midnight, so they can go through the applications they have and process the initial grants.

She says to check back on the website for when applications will reopen.

But, not all hope is lost during the pandemic, many businesses are trying to help others and the community.

“We tried to take feedback from a lot of restaurants, provide, kind of, what our game plan was, and tried to get restaurants on the same page of how we were going move forward,” said Eddie Sahm, one of the owner’s of Sahm’s Tavern.

He said they had to lay off about 80% of their company’s employees in the beginning, but they were lucky and able to bring about 50% back to work.

“You need to understand your business from a numbers point of view, and whether or not what you’re doing is actually going to help your business.”

He says if businesses want to survive through the pandemic they can’t just wing it.