These business owners and businesses are well known: Elliott's on Linden, Sly Fox, The Roast Office, Kirk Tours & Limousine, Curt's Cucina. These three individuals share the unbelievable financial pressures and the pain of letting staff go in this time of shutdown in Moore County due to COVID19, and what the recovery after the fact may look like.

This letter from Mark Elliott to Tim Moore eloquently expresses their position:

Dear Tim Moore:

I live in the small North Carolina town, Pinehurst. It’s predominantly built on tourism, and where I have built up 3 restaurants from scratch, employed over 100 people, and actively brought economic growth to my community for 20 years. Governor Roy Cooper’s pandemic closure mandate has crumbled the foundation of my businesses, and threatens to force me into bankruptcy along with hundreds of small businesses in Moore County alone. My name is Mark Elliott, I love this town and I need your help.

My ordinary life with family and friends has turned upside down. Perhaps you’ve not witnessed the invisible disaster upon us, as there is no viewable physical damage. I’ve furloughed 80% of my employees. I’ve lost $190,000 in revenue in 14 days. The take-out model fails to cover my fixed costs, forcing me to charge payroll to credit cards. At the current rate, I’ll be forced to cease operations completely within the month or file bankruptcy. Maybe if my building burned to the ground, or a tornado ripped through our downtown businesses, state leaders would better understand the scale of our devastation. The hospitality business as you know it has been targeted single-handedly, and will not survive this pandemic.

The truth is, our situation worsens with every passing day. Estimates show 3 million restaurant workers were immediately laid off, and another 5 to 7 million people face job instability – a staggering number. North Carolina’s hospitality industry generates $23.5 billion in sales to support the state’s economy and employs 13% of the state’s workforce.

My dire situation is amplified a thousand times across the restaurants, hotels, breweries, and other service businesses who provide those billions. We see progress with the CARES act, but its measures will not sustain my town for another month, let alone the entire nation. Because individual states are handling the nuances of closures, we are looking to you for action. Call back the house to pass realistic measures for our state’s economy and protect your workers.

Consider deferring sales tax payments. Forgive payroll matching, grant filing date extensions, or at the very least promise zero penalty and interest for payroll tax payments. We have obligations to the state and federal government and basically zero income.

Hold insurance companies accountable. After 20 years of paying into business interruption coverage, I’m denied when I need the funds most. Work with the financial services industry to encourage them to defer business related loan payments for at least 30 days, if not more, without penalty. This deferral should include landlords as well as tenants, who are both under strain from this order. Provide financial assistance directly to actual operators (i.e. business or franchise owners) to cover ongoing fixed costs.

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA), Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), and National Restaurant Association (NRA) are aligned with our mandates. Unlike other small businesses, the hospitality industry is completely dependent on current business to stay afloat. We are the backbone of the tourism industry and the spirit of our communities. When we’re gone, what will be left?

I have often wondered if I would hesitate, should I be standing on a bridge and saw someone drowning. Where is my industry’s lifeline? Can you honestly tell me you’ve done everything? I urge you to take action now for restaurants, cafes, hotels, wineries, farmers, grocers, caterers, and other food vendors. Every day, my ability to rehire furloughed staff withers. Every day, my small business inches toward closing forever.

Mark Elliott