Sam Galeotos, owner of Cheyenne restaurant The Metropolitan Downtown, took to Facebook on Tuesday to explain the layoffs at his business after news of the move sparked a major backlash on social media.
A letter from Galeotos to 46 Metropolitan staffers began circulating on Facebook sometime Monday evening. In the letter, also dated Monday, Galeotos told his employees that their positions had been eliminated at the restaurant, effective immediately, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It stated their final check would be available March 23 and that they may be eligible for unemployment compensation. It also provided information about health benefits and said there may be possibility for future employment.
The letter quickly spread through the Cheyenne and Laramie County Facebook community. Most expressed displeasure at the move, with some claiming the terminated staffers wouldn’t be able to receive unemployment due to being part-time “gig workers.”
Galeotos took to the Met’s Facebook page to offer an explanation, saying he is just a business owner who has been backed into a corner because of a pandemic no one fully prepared for.
“There has been a great deal of chatter and criticism in the social media arena about (the firings), most lacking knowledge of the fundamental facts or circumstances surrounding this difficult situation,” the post said.
While there have been ups and downs in the nine months since the restaurant opened last summer, Galeotos told readers that coming into 2020, the business was doing well, boasting a hearty customer base and strong staff.
But with the coronavirus pandemic making its way into the United States and Wyoming, the business started to see negative effects. With the federal recommendation that people gather in no groups larger than 10, Galeotos and his management team had to make a tough decision.
“If we are not allowed to let people in our doors, we cannot cook for them, serve them and accordingly cannot provide an environment where our staff can earn a living,” the post read. “We can try to make the best decision possible for our team and business, even when all the choices are terrible. And that is what we have done.”
The final decision was to downsize the staff, maintaining a skeleton crew to keep the restaurant open in some manner. This will allow team members to file for unemployment or any other government assistance programs in the interim, Galeotos said.
He stressed the Met is still open for business, where the small staff is rolling out a takeout option with curbside delivery to minimize social contact.
“This is a very difficult and turbulent time and we have no idea how long it will last,” Galeotos said. “That’s what makes this decision much more difficult. We believe we have acted prudently for our team members and business. It is our sincere hope we will be hiring [the team members] back as this crisis subsides.”