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Out Of Work Because Of Coronavirus: James Beard Finalist

Katie Button, an Asheville restauranteur.

"I feel like over the course of a weekend the whole world changed"

Name: Katie Button, of Asheville, 37-years-old. Married with two children.
Job Status: Self-employed; Owner of two restaurants and an event space
Current revenue: $0
Savings: "I don't have anything. I am looking for some smart ways to have some funds available to us. Our lender/banker recommend we look into a home equity line. I'm lucky to own my own home and I feel fortunate to even have that option."
Entrepreneur: Button is a three-time finalist for the James Beard Award. In partnership with her parents and husband she owns popular Asheville restaurants Curate Tapas Bar and Button & Co. Bagels.

Most worried about: "The amount of debt that independent restaurants, small businesses are going to have to incur just to get themselves through this. And then what that means functionality for their businesses. That is the piece that is scary. That is the thing that will cause businesses to close permanently."

The Closing

On Monday March 16, after days of plummeting reservations and a drop in sales, Button and her co-owners made the inevitable choice to lay off 140 employees.

"We ran the calculations and just ended up closing everything. We weren't going to cover labor, we couldn't go a single day where we could save money," Button said.

"I started crying and couldn't control it," she said, recalling a meeting between the business partners, HR manager, and an accountant. "The last few weeks I think I've gone through an emotional washing machine, or maybe blender. It's been ups and downs and all around and really challenging."

Button said the decision to halt business was partially due to loss of revenue, but also fear that continued operations would expose the staff to the virus.

"It's also important to know that 90% of what we make is immediately spent back into the community. It's that equation that keeps all of these makers and craftsman in this place, able to do what they do. But a city of 85,000 cannot support everything it has here, without the tourism."

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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