Minnesota restaurant workers worried about holiday season as 4-week shutdown looms

Minnesota restaurant workers are demanding some financial assistance to survive, as the state prepares to go into a four-week shutdown beginning this weekend, with many worried about how they’re going to weather the upcoming holiday season. 

Madi Chaffee worked her final shift Friday at Lola’s Lakehouse restaurant on Lake Waconia before the dining room goes dark for a month. Gov. Tim Walz has ordered all bars and restaurants, gyms and fitness centers and other entertainment venues to close for the next four weeks as COVID-19 continues to surge across the state. 

The full-time server and single mom admits she’s anxious about the next few weeks. 

"I have a daughter and a son, 3 and 5 years old," Chaffee said. "It being Christmas times, it makes it really hard that I don’t have a job, making one-third of my income on unemployment."

Chaffee explained that her two-month, shutdown-induced furlough earlier this year, when COVID first struck, included a $600 weekly bonus on top of her unemployment insurance as part of the federal CARES Act that helped cushion the blow. 

But heading into the holidays, that safety net is gone. 

"I’ve got to call this bill company, my mortgage place, my credit card company and some people aren’t even doing…I called my car payment bank and they were like, we’re not doing anything for COVID anymore. I was like, what, how?" she said. 

Chafee is committed to making the Christmas season magical for her young kids, so she started buying gifts back in the summer when her salary and tips were stable.

She told FOX 9 the restaurant industry is doing everything it can to be safe with masks, spaced out tables and deep cleaning—recognizing the threat of the pandemic and the rising case counts. But now, she and her fellow hospitality workers—some 200,000 strong in Minnesota—are demanding some financial assistance to survive.

RELATED: Minnesota hospitality group asks governor for immediate financial assistance ahead of 4-week shutdown

"I’m just trying to set aside whatever money I do have extra for Christmas or groceries that I need or anything like that," Chaffee said. "It’s stressful to not know what the next month is going to bring."