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DC restaurants, clubs forced to lay off employees as coronavirus shutdown continues

At least four D.C. restaurants and clubs have announced decisions to layoff employees, as of Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus’ spread is forcing some D.C. businesses to make hard decisions.

Earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered night clubs to close and restaurants to cut their business down to delivery and takeout only to fight the coronavirus.

Since then, some D.C. businesses say they have had to lay off employees in order to stay financially viable.

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Coley Smith, a D.C. resident, said she was laid off by the restaurant she worked at on Monday.

“Yesterday, we all got a company-wide email, letter and video message that we were going to have to stop working,” she said.

Smith said she has enough support and savings to make it through this latest financial crisis. However, she said she is worried about the fate of some of her coworkers.

"I have a lot of coworkers who are not going to be okay,” she said. “And people I know who are calling me because they are freaking out because there are no jobs at the moment.”

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Both Busboys and Poets and the Founding Farmers restaurant group have announced layoffs.

“We’ll be doing free food for any of our employees who have lost their jobs,” said Founding Farmers co-owner Dan Simons.

Compass Coffee wrote a post on Instagram detailing its decision to lay off some employees Tuesday.

“Last night, we decided to lay off the vast majority of our baristas so they are eligible for unemployment benefits from the D.C. and VA governments,” the post read. “As a small business, after struggling for two weeks and coming up with projects to keep people employed, we simply ran out of work, and could not afford to pay people without things for them to do.”

DC Improv owner Allyson Jaffe wrote on Instagram that she had to lay off 50 employees.

“Their worlds have been rocked and lives are forever changed,” she said. “The DC Improv is closed for who knows how long. I have no idea if my business will be able to weather this storm and reopen.”

In the meantime, the D.C. Council has passed an emergency bill that could provide some financial relief to laid off workers.

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Smith said she is thankful the council passed the measure. However, she said governing bodies should have been prepared for the coronavirus’ economic effects before it hit US shores.

"On a larger scale, this is hurdling toward other American cities,” she said. “It's hurdling toward my family in California and southern Virginia, things like that. And, we're still not getting the idea that these are issues that can be tackled before they become pandemic size."

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