Small businesses that serve some of America's biggest tech companies could continue to be starved for business as more employees work from home in the fall.
Seattle-based bars and restaurants located near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters around its Downtown and South Lake Union campuses could reopen to a desolate dining scene after the e-commerce giant, which employees 50,000 Seattle-based workers, announced last week employees can work from home through Oct. 2 if their jobs allow them to do so, in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
When Amazon and Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft advised staffers to work from home in March when the pandemic broke out, restaurants lost a big chunk of revenue within days, resulting in many temporary closures even before Gov. Jay Inslee issued the state’s first stay-at-home orders, Eater Seattle reported. Now, it's likely they will face a prolonged hit to business even after the state eases its stay-at-home orders.
Mediterranean restaurant Anar, located inside the Doppler building (also known as Amazon Tower I) is temporarily closed, and its sister restaurant Mamnoon Street in the same building, is now running solely on take-out and delivery orders, Eater reported. Twelve of the 13 restaurants in Seattle-based chef Tom Douglas’ restaurant group have also reportedly shut down, for the time being, leaving only its new take-out pizzeria in Ballard open for business. The group's staff was cut from 850 employees to just five.
To support local businesses near its campuses, Amazon announced in March a $5 million fund to help restaurants, bars and food trucks that were most impacted by COVID-19. It also rolled out a separate $2.5 million fund specifically for workers impacted by the virus including employees unable to take sick leave and for those without health insurance.
Amazon did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment on details of the fund and if it would continue its effort to support small businesses nearby in the coming months.
Some small business owners who did receive funding say they will still not be able to keep their enterprises running for an additional five months. Zheng Cafe, a Chinese restaurant in South Lake, told Eater Seattle it received $2,500 from Amazon’s fund along with a grant, but said it used the money on unpaid bills.
The delivery-only model has proven to be a difficult one to sustain across the country as small businesses grapple with using third-party delivery services to expand their customer reach, which can cost them sometimes up to 30 percent in commission fees per order.
A number of cities, including Seattle, have pushed to stop delivery services like Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and DoorDash from charging more than 15 percent commission for take-out orders to reduce the financial burden for restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.