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Business Observer Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020 4 months ago

Restaurateur to staff: 'We're going to have cuts'

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Dan Bavaro expects to lay off half of his staff — 50 people — as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

The global COVID-19 pandemic is already an economic gut punch for restaurateurs like Dan Bavaro, the founder and owner of Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria, a chain of Italian restaurants in St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Tampa and, until recently, Tampa International Airport. Bavaro says he’s had to shutter the airport location and let go all of its 12 staff members because of plummeting revenues, which have already declined between 50% and 60% in the wake of the outbreak. 

Bavaro expects the coronavirus situation to get worse before it gets better and says he might have to lay off half of his workforce, which would amount to 50 people losing their jobs. But he says one of the keys to getting through a crisis like this is to be open and honest with workers. 

“We’re addressing it, and I’m being candid with my team,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of people who have been here five years, eight years, and I’ve had to tell them we’re going to have [job] cuts. They’re going to have to file for unemployment. If they have a car loan or mortgage, they’re going to have to call their lender and work something out. But I want them to know they have options, and it’s not the world coming to an end. We just have to fight through it.” 

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered restaurants to cease dine-in operations, which Bavaro anticipated. Early last week, it began pushing for patrons to order takeout or make use of third-party delivery apps like UberEats and BiteSquad, some of which have waived delivery fees for end users as the COVID-19 crisis continues to worsen. 

“We're also introducing packaged meals for families to pick up,” Bavaro says. “We’re just trying to get as creative as possible to keep the revenue going.”

Bavaro, though, thinks the state government could be doing more to help small business owners like him, and he wasn’t impressed with the emergency bridge loan program DeSantis announced on Tuesday. 

“It sounds great at the beginning, with 0% interest for the first 12 months, but then after that it's 12%,” he says. “You’ve got a lot of people about to lose everything they have, and I think 6% would’ve been more fair. I don't think you're going to stimulate the economy with those rates. I think most people will opt to not take that and just deal with the consequences.” 

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