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Ohio's Tipped Restaurant Employees Feel the Pinch from Closures

Chris Weil (second from r) and the bar staff of Jilly's Music Room.
Jilly's Music Room
Chris Weil (second from r) and the bar staff of Jilly's Music Room.

Bar and restaurant employees across Ohio have found themselves out of a job as the state works to curb the spread of COVID-19. On Sunday, Gov. Mike DeWine told Ohioans in the food and beverage industry that unemployment compensation is available. He also waived the one- week waiting period to receive benefits. 

But for tipped employees like Chris Weil and his girlfriend, Julianne Berry, the hourly wage makes up only about 25 percent of their overall earnings.

Weil has been a professional bartender for 22 years. He has two jobs -  Jilly’s Music Room in Akron and Tiki Underground in Hudson.

So when he learned both employers were temporarily closing he applied for unemployment. And as a United States Bartender’s Guild member he also might be eligible for a small relief grant through the Guild’s foundation.

But he says things could still be tight.

“Obviously my first thought is am I going to have enough money to make it because in my house my girlfriend of seven years is also in the bar and restaurant business so that really affects us losing both incomes in one household,” he said.  

Weil is worried unemployment might not stretch far enough. He’s also worriedabout some of his co-workers.

“My girlfriend is obviously a little stressed out, some of the other folks I wouldn’t say they’re in the exact same positon as me but there are some single mothers out there," he said. " I’m really worried about them. I have a little bit of savings but these single moms, they live paycheck to paycheck I can only imagine what they’re going through.” 

Even so, Weil says the governor made the right move.

“I do not think it’s an overreaction; this way it keeps all restaurant workers and bar employees out of harm’s way,” he said.

For the time being, restaurants that offer food to carry out are still open.

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Jennifer Conn joined WKSU in February 2019 as Akron reporter.