As county, state and federal leaders await the monthlong assessment of damages of Bob Hall Pier, the owner of Mikel May’s is trying to help her employees who are now out of a job.
“We had just gotten reopened,” said Mikel May’s owner May Mendoza Nardone.
The restaurant had to close for more than 10 days in early July for a deep cleaning after someone who entered the business later tested positive for COVID-19.
“And then hurricane Hanna happened," she said. "So, my employees have had a tough time back-and-forth.”
Mikel May’s had 63 employees when it closed.
“That’s a lot of mouths to feed,” Nardone said. “I just don’t have the income for that coming in, and there’s no programs for that because we weren’t a disaster area.”
Nardone said since this closure, she’s created an employee payroll fund to assist her employees who are unable to get unemployment or other benefits.
She did it because she’s tried everything else, she said.
“We’ve already got the PPP loan, which we just used on the last payroll prior to this past one that we had last week,” she said. “We had to do a small SBA loan for disaster relief, so we’ve already done that. So, we’ve already exhausted any possibilities.”
Nardone said the restaurant community also has come in to help by offering to hire some of those unemployed workers temporarily.
“I’ve had probably six to eight restaurants reach out to me here, on the Island, as far as Rockport, in-town -- so they have that option, and they are looking at those,” she said. “But there’s only so many positions. Like I said, I have 63 employees.”
Although Nardone said she did have her business insured, the fact that it was a storm surge from Hurricane Hanna complicated things.
“Since this was a tidal-surge-type storm, it falls under ‘flood,' " she said. “And flood insurance doesn’t provide anything for loss of income — they only provide for the structure. I don’t own the structure. They provide for your contents.”
The only contents that were destroyed in her business was food and beer kegs that expired due to a lack of electricity -- expenses that don’t stack up to her $100,000 monthly payroll.
While she wants the facility to be safe for everyone, Nardone feels like there’s not much she can do for her employees.
“We’re kind of in limbo until we know what the report’s gonna say,” she said. “So we have no idea how long we’ll be closed. I’m assuming it be several months.”
Still, Nardone is trying to stay optimistic. She and her employees plan to do a beach cleanup on Sunday at 9 a.m. near the restaurant. She said she knows she will be back in her restaurant one day.
“I’m not planning on going anywhere,” she said. “It’s just a matter of when we will reopen, so it’s been a little tough.”
The website to the restaurant's employee payroll fund can be found here.