MILWAUKEE — Newly released data from the U.S. Labor Department shows the hospitality industry continues to suffer as a result of the pandemic.
In its December 2020 Employment Situation Report released last week, the Labor Department found 498,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry were lost in that month alone. The report states 372,000 of those jobs lost were in food services and drinking places.
Restaurants and bars are continuing to struggle here in Milwaukee as well.
For nearly 16 years, Club Timbuktu has been a staple in the Riverwest community. Owner Youssouf Komara offers a forum of music, food and culture from African, Jamaican and Caribbean origins.
"We picked Timbuktu because that was the first university in Africa," Komara said.
Since the pandemic, Komara has been able to host small gatherings. He said the community helped fundraise $2,000 so he could pay heat and electricity bills.
He said he's had to lay off three employees. Now he runs the bar himself.
"I'm kind of worried. I'm still worried," he said.
The National Restaurant Coalition reported in December more than 110,000 restaurants across the country have closed since March.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition posted on its Facebook page Thursday, "For 10 months, our businesses have been left unsure if we’ll survive one more week. Millions of workers uncertain where their next paycheck will come from. Hearts of communities closed for good. Independent restaurants and bars need help, and we need it now."
The Coalition is advocating for lawmakers to pass the Restaurants Act, which would provide $120 billion in relief to restaurants and bars.
For Komara, help like that can't come soon enough.
"I think I'm not alone," Komara said. "A lot of business owners are hoping. We are a small business, we are just a kind of a minority businesses, with hope that will make a difference."