Memphis Restaurant Association working on relief for local businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

WATCH: Memphis Restaurant Association working on relief for local businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Restaurants across the Mid-South are trying to survive, but complying with new COVID-precautions comes at a cost.

Bills and rent are still due in a matter of days, but there may be some relief for some restaurants.

The Memphis Restaurant Association reached out to some property owners and landlords and asked them to work with restaurants to waive or postpone rent payments for next month.

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None of this is normal and restaurant owners said none could have planned for something like this.

Wednesday night there was still some hustle and bustle in Overton Square. Instead of people inside restaurants, cars lined the streets for takeout orders. But there is concern about how long the lines will last.

“After tonight, if it’s extremely slow then we may not be open tomorrow,” said Bari Restaurant chef and owner Jason Severs. “But our plan is to be open as long as we can until we’re told we can’t be open or it just doesn’t make sense to keep exposing everybody.”

Severs said they’re still trying to figure out how to keep their doors open. But he’s grateful there’s one less expense to worry about – rent.

Severs told FOX13 his landlord waived rent for April and May.

“It’s a tremendous relief that we have abatement on our rent because everyone has expenses that they have to pay and knowing that rent isn’t one of them is a generous offer,” he said.

According to the Memphis Restaurant Association, there are about 2000 restaurants in Shelby County.

Ernie Mellor, the association’s president, said he’s been talking with property owners and landlords about waiving or postponing rent for restaurants because of COVID-19.

“The gut feeling from them is to give some relief,” Mellor said. “I know of 4,5 of the big guys that have already started to do that.”

Even though rent isn’t an issue for the next two months, Severs said he’s already had to make some tough decisions.

“We had to let a few of our staff go because again everything is unknown and we’re doing some to-go orders but it’s by no means what it was before any of this happened and we’re trying to figure out how to keep the remaining employees that we have here to make it even worth their while to be here.”

The Memphis Restaurant Association said they’ve been talking to Governor bill Lee about the next steps.

But as we’ve seen this week, some closures have been extended so it’s unclear how long restaurants will have to stick to takeout and delivery.