AUGUSTA, GA ( WJBF) — The coronavirus pandemic brought uncertainty for many small businesses including restaurants like The Boll Weevil Café. The restaurant’s ownership wasn’t sure if they would have to close their doors for good.
” It’s been difficult to be honest. It’s been stressful not only for the restaurant but I want to make sure my staff is taken care of and that was a lot of pressure. We did what we could for them and thankfully we’re still in business and we’re still making it work,” Boll Weevil Cafe general manager Rafael Gonzalez said.
Numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics show the leisure and hospitality industry has been among one of the hardest hit during the pandemic.
The unemployment rate for the hospitality industry in Augusta is at 22.7% — that’s a 16.9% increase from 2019.
” Travel and tourism has taken a tremendous hit out of probably all of the types businesses and categories it has severely impacted travel and tourism,” CEO of Augusta Convention and Visitor Bureau Bennish Brown said.
Local hospitality and tourism leaders said they’re hoping to boost the industry especially restaurants with initiatives they plan to continue this year.
“Through events like keeping the Great Augusta Picnic, a lot of things were focused around dining because we knew that was very much a needed area,” Brown said.
Boll Weevil owner Raphael Gonzalez said he’s also hopeful that this year restaurants will be able to make a come back.
” I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bounce back. We’re not going anywhere.”