Restaurant servers are left out of work due to COVID-19



In this Thursday, March 19, file photo, a view of the nearly deserted scene on Bourbon Street, which is normally bustling with tourists at restaurants and bars. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, New Orleans has shut down bars and eliminated restaurant dining, leaving local servers out of work. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Alexandria Whitten

When Vinlisa Khoeum became a server at an Uptown restaurant, she hoped the salary and tips she made there would help her keep up with her rent and other bills. For the past few months, she had a consistent work schedule. Everything changed for her, and other New Orleans restaurant workers, when coronavirus concerns caused many restaurants to switch to takeout and delivery orders only on March 16, in accordance with Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s initiative to reduce public and private gatherings of more than 10 people.

“Now I only work like once a week,” Khoem said, “I still work, which I’m grateful for, and at the same time I just have in my mind that it will be temporary.”

Khoeum’s restaurant has switched to takeout only, and right now she only works one shift a week. She is concerned about what the recent changes due to the coronavirus pandemic will mean for her and her coworkers.

“It sucks because I just know so many people at my work who need to pay bills—you know bills aren’t being exempt right now. So, they still got to find a way to make money,” Khoeum said, “Us going to work right now, we are barely making anything compared to what we usually make in a day.”

During the coronavirus crisis, some power, water and telecommunication providers have been making changes to keep New Orleans residents safe during this emergency. The Sewerage and Water Board has suspended water service shut offs and will restore service to customers that have been disconnected. Entergy will also halt disconnections over unpaid bills during the coronavirus pandemic. More information, including changes implemented by internet and cellular providers is available on

Khoeum says that she and her coworkers are not receiving compensation for their reduced hours, but she is still grateful to have a job when other restaurants or temporarily closing until the pandemic is over.

“I want to work more but I don’t know, I feel like other people need it more than I do,” Khoeum said, “Right now I’m just relying on the savings I have built up so far… but it’s only going to last me probably three months max. So, if I can’t figure it out, I’m screwed. I’m hoping rent decreases or something.”

Those whose hours have been reduced because of lack of work, or whose workplace closes temporarily without compensation, or those who were instructed to not go to work without pay at home, are encouraged to file for unemployment.

Khoeum has not considered filing for unemployment yet.

“I’m trying to see how this plays out, how my job goes,” Khoeum said, “But if I’m not making anything from work and if there is like no point in going to work, I might do that.”