News Story

Restaurant, Bar Shutdown Closes His Trivia Night Business - ‘Dire To The Utmost’

Lost livelihoods percolating through the economy

Michigan restaurants and taverns have been closed since March 16 under executive orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Many owners are unsure whether or how long their business can survive, while employees don’t know if they’ll have jobs to return to when the lockdown ends.

Jeff Henderson is the owner of Hender-Tainment LLC, and before the lockdown, he ran weekly trivia nights at a dozen Jackson County bars. Now his business is closed, along with the rest of this industry.

“I am not providing services at all right now,” Henderson told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “My parent company has managed to find a way to engage those people who play our games on a weekly basis by providing an online music bingo game. The DJ Trivia owners have also figured out a way to run a trivia game via the net as well. We make zero money doing this but it keeps us at the forefront of people’s minds. We must be diligent and creative at this time in order to survive.”

Henderson said he’s not making any money, and because there is no work, he also can’t pay the independent event hosts who would usually be running the games in bars and restaurants.

“Fortunately, I think most of my hosts are still working at their days jobs,” Henderson said.

In addition to providing trivia games and DJs as an extra draw for hospitality establishments, the business also runs fundraising events for nonprofit organizations. Henderson said he started the business five years ago, and it took about four years to get well-established.

Henderson says he has already lost at least $5,400 since the shutdown began, with no end in sight, given talk of extended restrictions and social distance protocols.

“Obviously, this is dire to the utmost extreme,” Henderson said. “I don’t have any income at the moment. I do have savings which I have been paying the bills with. I applied for unemployment benefits but have had issues being approved due to being a 1099 (independent contractor) worker.”

Henderson said he’s been working through the financial issues of the shutdown.

“It is moving slowly,” he explained. “I applied for the SBA small business loan but have not heard anything from them one way or the other yet. I chose to draw on my IRA to have some funds available just in case neither unemployment nor SBA come through for me.”

Henderson said he has no other job to fall back on, but he is keeping an eye open for other opportunities. The 56-year-old entrepreneur says he’s worried about how long it will take the economy to revive and what will have changed when it does.

“Are bar/restaurant owners going to want to pay me to be there? Even if I bring in a crowd?” he asked. “I don't know how many accounts I have remaining after all of this.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.