LEXINGTON, S.C. — Town of Lexington officials, the Greater Lexington Chamber, and restaurant owners met Friday morning to discuss how they can get through the coronavirus pandemic, and how businesses could receive aid.
COVID-19 is making its presence known across the country. Sporting events, concerts, and mass gatherings have been and are continuing to be cancelled.
One industry who will take a hit from the disease will be the hospitality and restaurant industry. On Tuesday, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster gave the order to stop all dine-in service for restaurants in the Palmetto State to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
With many local businesses making the bulk of their money from dine-in sales, they're having to resort to only carryout, curbside pickup, or delivery services.
Tuesday morning, restaurant owners in Lexington came together at the Greater Lexington Chamber and Visitors Centers to discuss how they can all work together to make ends meet.
Owners wanted to make the meetings more frequent throughout the process and decided to meet on Friday morning. Town of Lexington leaders, insurance companies, and media managing groups.
Britt Poole, the town administrator for the Town of Lexington, was at the meeting. He wanted to inform business owners town council was working to help with the hospitality tax.
Town council set up an emergency ordinance for 60 days.
"It does remove any penalties or late fees for non-payment so that gives them 60 days so they don't have to worry about the bureaucracy right now," said Poole. "Once everybody gets back up and they can figure that out and it gives them a little leeway to be able to do that."
This means restaurants would not have to pay the hospitality tax until May 17th. State law only allows the deadline to be extended 60 days. The deadline could be extended if need be due to the coronavirus situation.
Poole says the town was approached by a number of restaurants and the chamber of commerce with the solution that would help with their current situation.
"We're just trying to give them as much flexibility as possible. Obviously this is going to be really hard on the restaurants and bars and places like that. We don't want to compound the problem," explained Poole. "We're trying to ease anything that we can to give them a little bit of flexibility so they can figure out what's going to work for them so they can keep their doors open."
The town administrator says they're listening to suggestions and his office is in constant contact with town council to try and do everything that they can.
"If the chamber has any other ideas that were financially feasible or maybe not even related to finance, we would certainly consider those. We're looking for ways to make it, like I said, try and not to be the cause of the issue and give them the flexibility they need to operate," said Poole.
The Town of Lexington is also not cutting off utility services at this time to continue to help businesses.
At the meeting, owners were encouraged to reach out to their agent for policy details and coverage for their business.
In the meeting minutes, the Greater Lexington Chamber said, "Traditional Business Owners Policies (BOP) do not cover closure due to virus. However, you are encouraged to continue to file a claim for providers to see national impact. A future decision could be made to offer relief."
According to the meeting minutes, "The Chamber will be meeting with Gregg White, District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s South Carolina District Office, next week to discuss how Midlands businesses can apply for disaster relief loans."
There's also been discussion on loans on how employees can be helped during this time. Owners will be talking with officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration's South Carolina District Office on Tuesday and hope to have some answers then.
The Greater Lexington Chamber and Visitors Center has a section on their website dedicated to COVID-19 here.
Restaurants in the Midlands have been looking for ways to maintain business during the pandemic. Click on the link below to see all the offers restaurants and businesses have at this time.