Laid-off restaurant workers stay positive
Many Monroe County bars and restaurants impacted by last week’s shutdown are adapting to a new normal in the food service industry by providing carry outs, curbside service and deliveries.
The services are helping restaurants and bars generate some revenue in the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ March 17 decision to stop in-house dining in the state for the foreseeable future.
The same can’t be said for the employees of those same restaurants, however, as many found themselves out of work on the day the order was handed down.
Many cooks and servers who have been laid off due to the mandate are facing an uncertain future.
Sparta’s Brittany Hasselberger – a server at Sparta Family Restaurant - lost her sole source of income last week when she was laid off in the wake of Gov. Evers’ order.
The single mother of two children is trying to stay busy by volunteering at the restaurant a couple of days a week, but she’s no doubt worried about the future.
Hasselberger said the news hit hard.
“My heart sunk – it was a gut-wrenching feeling,” she offered. “It’s scary when you’re the only person in the home providing income for your children.”
Hasselberger said she’s been working in the food service industry for more than half of her life – including the past seven years at Sparta Family Restaurant.
She said she’s managed to save enough money to weather the storm for a month or two, but after that she’s not sure what she will do for income.
“Financially, I’ll be okay for now, but who knows how long its going to last,” said Hasselberger.
“I have empathy for others who may not be okay,” she continued. “Working in the community, you get to know everyone around here. You worry about your kids’ friends and other children who may be in the same boat.”
Her biggest concern, of course, is for her two children – 13-year-old Maleki and three-year-old Skylar.
While she’s considered looking for another job, Hasselberger said its not a plausible solution for a single mother with two children at home because school has been suspended indefinitely.
She’s – in the very sense of the phrase – planted firmly between a rock and a hard place.
“It would be impossible for me to do that – it wouldn’t financially pay for me to do it temporarily,” Hasselberger. “The cost for child care, gas, etc. would be too much.”
Hasselberger is eligible for unemployment, but the amount she will receive each week will fall well short of what she makes in wages.
Let’s make it clear, Hasselberger doesn’t want to be looked as a charity case – she remains optimistic about the future and is just as concerned for others as she is for herself.
“I realize that others are in the same situation or worse. I’m okay right now,” she said.
“Thankfully, I have enough set aside to get by for two months,” continued Hasselberger. “It’s not just me, it’s everybody, and many are in the same shoes who aren’t okay right now. It sucks, and hopefully, it passes and as a community we can pull through it together.”
Over in Tomah, Tori Jones was laid off from a full-time job as the cook at Mandy’s Cafe and Deli.
To make matters worse, her boyfriend, Mike Kaspari, lost his full-time job as a cook at Bluffview Dining in Camp Douglas.
Jones said the news of her layoff hit hard.
“How do I pay rent? How are we going to eat?” she said. “It’s definitely not been easy.”
In an effort to save money and pay bills, Jones and Kaspari, who have four children between them, are planning to move in together.
“We’ve always talked about it, but now we’re moving in together to save some money,” said Jones. “It’s just a little sooner than expected.”
Like Hasselberger, Jones was able to set a little money aside prior to the mandate.
“I have a little nest egg. I think that will help us get by for a couple of months,” she said. “I also run a cleaning business on the side. I’m doing a couple of homes, but I’m willing to take on more right now.”
She said a proposed stimulus bill that may provide one-time payments to Americans out of work would be beneficial to her and her family as well.
“It will definitely help. It guarantees we can eat and not just pay the bills,” offered Jones.
Despite the difficult situation, Jones chooses keep a positive attitude.
“I hope everyone else has been as fortunate. I feel very blessed right now with everything that’s going on,” she said.
“One day at a time. You have to keep a positive attitude so the kids keep a positive attitude. We’re fortunate to live in a country where they are going to send us money to help us out. Not everybody has that,” continued Jones. “God is good and all of this happens for a reason. Hopefully, we’ll all make it through to the other side – just stay positive.”
Mandy’s Cafe and Deli and Bluffview Dining are co-owned by Mandy Bacholl and her mother, Tammy Waltemath.
Bluffview Dining is closed for the time being, but Bacholl said Mandy’s Cafe and Dining remains open for drive-through and curbside orders daily from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sparta Family Restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for curbside service.
Patrons can call ahead for service at 608-269-3500 for Sparta Family Restaurant in Sparta and at 608-567-2044 for Mandy’s Cafe and Deli in Tomah.