RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s been a tough year for the hospitality industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With people encouraged to stay home, they’re not spending money at restaurants, hotels and bars the way the they once did.

The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is calling on state leaders to help. 

“We’re trying to keep it going,” said Ben Swirsky, the co-owner of Zest Cafe and Home Art said.

The cafe has been a fixture on Six Forks Road for at least 25 years. 

“It really is tough doing business with these guidelines,” Swirsky said. 

The tables in his dining room are more than 6 feet apart. But, operating at 50% capacity, means making a lot less money. 

“The community has been great with helping us out, so we’ve been able to get things going again to a level where our head is above water and we’re doing what we can,” he said.

The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association said between March and November 2020, restaurants, hotels and bars saw a decline of $4.19 billion in taxable sales. They said 20% of the industry lost their jobs, accounting for 75% of all jobs lost in the state.

Yet they secured less than 8% in federal and state relief. 

“The impact on our industry has just been devastating and I think us and our leadership (need) to take a hard look at what we might ask the General Assembly and Governor Cooper to do,” said Lynn Minges, the president and CEO of the restaurant and lodging group.

The association is sending state leaders what they call a blueprint for the industry’s revival.

They’re calling for $300 million in a hospitality assistance program, property tax payment flexibility and property tax revaluation. 

“We all know that properties that were valued in January of 2020 are not worth today here we are in 2021 what they were a year ago,” Minges said.

“It would be huge. I mean unfortunately rent is still the same price, wages are still the same, it’s tough,” Swirsky said.

Minges said state leaders from both parties have reached out. She’s hoping the proposal will be met with bipartisan support.