Danny Meyer, owner of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, announced Wednesday that his company has to lay off 2,000 employees, which accounts for 80 percent of staff.
Meyer said in a video that the layoffs are more than all the people his company has hired in the first 20 to 25 years of business. He said that without income, the restaurants cannot pay employees without becoming insolvent.
Meyer said his company is doing the best it can with respect to extending healthcare coverage for employees as long as it possibly can. He hopes to return to full staff levels in the future.
“We’ve successfully led through and weathered 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, but at no other point has there been such a sustained and massive dual threat to both the physical safety and economic livelihoods of our people, or the hospitality industry as a whole,” Meyer said in a statement. “We’ve always endeavored to put our people first, and so to conduct such a massive layoff of our cherished colleagues today leaves me gutted.”
Union Square, which oversees more than 20 brands, created a relief fund to help the affected employees. To help that effort, Meyer is donating his entire compensation and executives are taking a pay cut. Through March 24, 100 percent of revenue from Union Square gift cards purchased on the website will go toward the fund.
Last week, Meyer announced that he was closing his restaurants. A couple of days afterward, New York City mandated that all dining areas close. Now, dining rooms are closed statewide, in addition to more than half the states in America.
“If ever there were a time to call on the government to provide enlightened leadership, it is now,” Meyer said. “Our employees need that support to sustain their livelihoods while waiting for our restaurants to reopen. I am calling on our city, state, and federal leadership to step in with a full emergency relief package for restaurant and bar workers, and I pledge my immediate service—on behalf of, and along with other industry leaders—to help come up with economic solutions that work for all. Our industry is both a significant employer and contributor to the fabric of life in New York.”
Union Square’s situation is one that many other restaurants are facing. The National Restaurant Association said in a letter to the federal government that between 5 million and 7 million jobs could be lost in the next three months and losses could reach $225 billion.