What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Kō•än, so•ca owners focus on employees amid pandemic

Posted August 12, 2020 9:00 a.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2020 9:56 a.m. EDT

— The hospitality group behind two popular area restaurants have made some changes to help their employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group, which has renamed itself hospitality•NOW, operates Kō•än and its sister restaurant So•ca.

During the pandemic, Kō•än shifted to offer grocery items along with take-out options, while So•ca closed its doors completely. Before reopening both restaurants, management outlined their mission and values for employees moving forward.

"As we talked it out, these dominoes started to fall one at a time. And the first one that fell was, paid sick leave," owner Sean Degnan said. "If we were going to reopen, we were going to have to incentivize people to stay at home if they weren't feeling well and without paid sick leave, you can't do that. So we get paid the same amount to stay home as you would have to come to work."

In addition to that, Degnan said employees needed to be paid a living wage. "We committed to a $15 an hour living wage," he said

Healthcare was also added for employees.

"We kind of rewrote our handbooks and, here we are open doing it as safely as we can," Degnan said.

So•ca, located in Cameron Village at the corner of Oberlin Road and Clark Avenue, was the first restaurant associated with COVID-19 in Wake County. During the last week in February, a diner who ate there tested positive for the virus. The restaurant immediately let diners know about the issue and had the space professionally cleaned.

"It was scary to get approached by the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services," Degnan said. "We've gotten a lot of credit for being transparent but we really didn't know what else to do."

When the restaurant could reopen its doors, Degnan said that diners came back to So•ca to show support.

"We had friends come in and literally leave thousand dollar tips cause they knew the staff was going to take a hit," Degnan said. "It was amazing."

Ko.an opened for business in Cary in November but closed four months later after COVID-19 restrictions forced owners to shut down their dine-in business.

Both restaurants have now reopened their dining rooms.

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