(First published in the March 19, 2020 issue of City Pages)
WOW Family Entertainment Center is one of several local restaurants opting to close for now because of the Coronavirus.
WOW owner Evan Greenwood, pictured here in a 2018 photo, spoke with City Pages (via telephone) about how the COVID-19 closure will impact his business and staff.
Reaction to COVID-19, known as the Coronavirus, started slow but the impacts steadily increased, crashing the stock market, canceling events and limiting places of business as local, state and national government took steps to curtail the pandemic.
Most all public places and places of business are either limiting hours or closing in response to public gathering mandates. Especially for locally owned bars and restaurants, shutting down this week and perhaps for two or three weeks longer, has been a hard pill to swallow, leaving them without revenue source and their employees without work or a paycheck. While some restaurants are trying to stay open with takeout orders, other owners completely closed their business for the time being. One of them is Evan Greenwood, owner of WOW Family Entertainment Center in Wausau. The following is an edited Q&A with Greenwood.
How difficult was the decision to close? (WOW announced Monday night that it would close, telling employees beforehand.)
For about three to five days before we closed we definitely knew it was a possibility this could escalate quickly with how much the government might intervene. We’re fine with complying, but you think about the physical and financial well-being of your staff and patrons, and the ethics of whether you should stay open or not. You don’t know who is exposed and then they could go infect someone who is high risk, and that person could get very sick. Those were the things I took into account.
Did you think the Coronavirus would have this impact?
I don’t think anyone knew what to think. I still think a lot of people don’t know what the widespread and long-term effects will be. You need to take it one day at a time. I don’t think we’re at the tip of the iceberg yet, it will get worse before it gets better.
How worried are you for your business and others in the community?
We’re not operating, we’re not selling our product and services, we have no money coming in. People I have worked for told me to always keep money for worst-case scenarios, and I’m sure other operators in town are just as shrewd. I’m worried about my coworkers and staff. Maybe they have kids, maybe some are living paycheck to paycheck? I’m most worried about them.
Did you consider doing takeout?
We’re trying to minimize the risk of exposure, so no carryout. We want to make sure everyone is safe.
How are you handling things with your employees?
They’re concerned and nervous, and maybe a little scared right now. I’ve made myself available 24/7, they can call me. We have quite a few employees, 70 plus, and I told anyone who works for us to file for unemployment now. We pay for unemployment insurance for situations like this, so people can get some assistance. Hopefully they can make it work and pay their bills. One thing we’re doing for staff is any food that is going to perish, we’re giving to our staff in the next two weeks, focusing on the ones who have children.
How could local, state or national government help?
I think the government owes it to the people to give some relief in this. I was hoping banks would freeze principal payments on small business loans. It takes tremendous risk to start your own business, and you need to pay the bank back. That’s a big chunk of your expenses.