PEOPLE's Voices from the Coronavirus Crisis will share firsthand accounts of the people facing unique challenges during a global pandemic

By People Staff
April 01, 2020 12:59 PM
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Cayla LaCosta

Cody Lacosta, along with his two siblings, Cayla, 24, and Courtney, 26, all work in different aspects of the hospitality industry, at local bars, breweries and restaurants. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, with most retail stores and dining options closed, the hospitality industry is taking a huge hit — and Lacosta and his siblings are facing job losses. He shares the difficulties they and their friends in the industry are facing.

Just before s–t hit the fan with the virus, I had a new job lined up at a brewery in South Carolina, where I used to live. I was preparing to move from New Jersey to the Greenville area in May. But the guy from the new brewery called me and said, “Yeah, I have to close my taproom. I’m laying off all of my employees. I can’t bring you on until, hopefully, June.”

So, the hope right now is to definitely get back there in June, but we don’t know for sure. The saddest part of it is they’re trying to create GoFundMes to support the staff they laid off because they can’t even pay them for their time; they were trying to do curbside pickups and everything.

The distribution system in South Carolina makes it difficult for breweries to make money through distribution; if their taprooms are closed, then they’re kind of dead in the water. So everyone’s trying to do all these specials to encourage you to you go there and pick up some cans of beer, but the companies are at the mercy of who’s going to show up because you can’t ship — that’s illegal in the state and the governor’s not loosening up the laws.

It’s definitely hurting a lot of people. My sister, Courtney, who works in the restaurant business in Charlotte, North Carolina, was recently laid off. She was like, “Oh, what do I do? I’ve never been laid off.” And I said, “Well, it’s a process. It takes some time, but just relax. It’s all going to go through.”

Cayla and Cody LaCosta
Cayla LaCosta

My sister Cayla, she’s technically still kind of working, but I don’t know what will happen to her job if this keeps going. She runs a really cool beer store with some of my buddies, and they’re trying to do everything in their willpower to stay open and just support the community as much as possible. But it’s hard. Cayla compared it to hurricane season.

You go through hurricanes and evacuate and you’re closed sometimes for two weeks. But what’s different about this is people are actually getting laid off. There is no end date to this yet. And that’s what is spooky about it. No one’s spending money because no one has money to spend. A lot of the people that work in the industry are paycheck-to-paycheck people, who may not have a lot of savings. A lot of them are college students. It’s scary to think about for sure.

Now I’m trying to support local places — I buy take-out once a week to support some restaurants and do what I can.

This virus outbreak has affected so many of my friends in the business across the country. It’s really disheartening to see and hear what is actually happening, especially to some friends that own their own breweries and their livelihood is on the line. They’re taking zero salary just to pay their employees; that’s only going to happen for most of them until like April 6th, and then the money runs out.

I think I’m going to be okay. I made good financial decisions early on in my life, but it’s going to be really hard for the hospitality business. It’s super disheartening.

I think the biggest thing is, if people can support local businesses as much as possible just because that person’s hurting more than a big business. And I’m not saying that big businesses aren’t hurting, but [it’s good to] support your friends and family that want to have a living doing something they enjoy.

Some of these breweries and some of these restaurants are just never going to recover. It’s a big financial burden on them. They’re trying to stay afloat. So many of my friends are laid off now and it’s sad, but I’m trying to look at it the best way possible.

  • As told to Morgan Evans