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'These are people that are very scared' | Small businesses hurting from coronavirus closures, cut hours

Local businesses count on cash flow to keep workers paid and doors open. Closures and shorter hours are hurting business, causing a ripple effect of job losses.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The push for social distancing has small businesses struggling to stay open.

Many in Knoxville are working on reduced hours or closed indefinitely.

In Market Square in downtown Knoxville, St. Patrick's Day decorations hang unused in bars no longer open.

"Two days ago, I was trying to stay open for the sake of our staff. Yesterday, we were preparing to close," said Scott West.

West owns Scruffy City Hall, Preservation Pub, The Lost Tavern and Tommy Trent's. All are restaurants and bars on Market Square.

All four establishments are now closed as a result of the coronavirus, leaving his employees jobless.

"These are people that are very scared, that do not have money to pay their bills, they can't feed their kids, they can't pay their rent because they don't have a job," West said.

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Across the county in Hardin Valley, the area's newest business is Orange Hat Brewing Company.

It closed its taproom after only being open for 24 days.

"But we are offering growlers to go and we have curbside service for those folks," co-owner Brian Hatmaker said.

He said closing so quickly after only being open for less than a month isn't great for any business.

"The folks that lease our property will be looking for that payment so it's tough, 24 days isn't enough for anyone," Hatmaker said.

He has a small staff that's still working, but they aren't seeing any tips come in.

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West said the list of people hurt by this will grow fast, calling it a ripple effect.

He canceled all upcoming live bands scheduled at Scruffy City Hall and Preservation Pub, meaning those musicians, technicians and equipment workers won't get paid.

"Door guys, barbacks, bartenders, kitchen people that are really paycheck to paycheck all those guys are out of work now," West said.

Distributors will feel the cut as long as these businesses are down.

West is pushing for answers.

"The government is going to have to step up and give these people support to get them through this coming few weeks of very uncertain times for them," he said.

RELATED: Preparing for the worst: Knox County pandemic plan calls for bus drivers to run ambulances, anticipates waves of virus

There are ways you can help support your area's local businesses.

Restaurants suggest buying gift cards or scheduling future events or rentals.

Those who work in the service industry need part-time work. Reach out to any closed businesses if you have part-time or seasonal positions available for these people.

"Looking for ways that you can maybe shop online locally and just finding a way to support your local community as much as you can," Hatmaker said.