Ridgewells Catering in Bethesda is permanently laying off up to 278 employees, according to a federally required notice the company filed Monday.
The notice states that the employees’ last day of work will be Jan. 15 and the layoffs are due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ridgewells CEO Susan Lacz has told Bethesda Beat in previous interviews that throughout the pandemic, she has had to lay off or furlough most of her employees.
Lacz said in an interview Monday afternoon that she was forced to make the layoffs permanent because business is down 87% from where it was before the pandemic.
“Trust me, it pains me to do this….It’s unfortunate that I’m losing people that I’ve worked side by side with for the last 30 years,” she said. “But there’s just no business. I can’t bring them back. Even if we did get the PPP money, there’s just no business to bring them back.”
PPP refers to the federal Paycheck Protection Program, in which businesses can get relief money related to the pandemic.
Lacz said the lack of social events due to COVID-19 restrictions has continued to hamper her business, but she’s been able to keep about 20 people on staff to help with the production and distribution of gift and event boxes.
Lacz said the volume of business is down significantly.
“We shipped over 3,000 boxes last December, but that’s equivalent to maybe one holiday party. It’s just not the same,” she said.
Lacz said she thinks Ridgewells is still “making it work” financially, thanks to anticipated sales from Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day gift boxes, as well as special gift boxes for the upcoming inauguration.
The inauguration day box choices include one for $200, which features Champagne, truffles and other snacks, as well as a dinner for two package for $175. The boxes are being shipped across the country.
But the sales don’t compare to the normal in-person festivities that Ridgewells would normally cater during the inauguration period, Lacz said.
“There’s no galas. There’s no balls. There’s no nothing to that extent,” she said.
Asked if the company will survive, Lacz said she is confident that it will.
“Absolutely. It’s hard though. I’m not gonna deny it. It hasn’t been easy. But it’d be a shame for a company like ours who’s been in business over 90 years to go out of business,” she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org