Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens cuts 80 percent of staff due to coronavirus

Lewis Ginter has cut a majority of its staff to help keep the garden financially stable as it rides out the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Lewis Ginter)

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens this week announced the layoffs of 89 of its 107 employees in a bid to survive the coronavirus pandemic, which has created conditions that eliminated the garden’s ability to generate revenue through selling admission tickets and offering rental facilities.

The nonprofit posted word of its “reduction in force’ in a statement on its website Tuesday, stating that more than 65 percent of the garden’s yearly operating budget comes from its earned income, mostly from visitors and events. The garden’s closure on March 15 eliminated those revenue streams. The garden sells admission tickets and rents its facilities for events.

The move, along with an unspecified withdrawal from the nonprofit’s endowment, will put the 50-acre entity in position to remain afloat during the pandemic and reopen once the virus passes, according to the statement.

The layoffs affect multiple departments. A group of horticulturalists will remain employed to maintain the garden during the closure and prepare for the reopening, garden spokeswoman Beth Monroe said. Remaining employees are taking pay cuts.

The organization is applying for financial assistance through the Small Business Administration, though it’s unclear whether the garden will receive any funds, or when the funds might be awarded and how much might be acquired. If possible, the garden plans to rehire staff depending on what the SBA gives it, Monroe said.

“If we get the funds, we will try to refill those positions,” she said.

Lewis Ginter reported $7.1 million in total revenue and $8.6 million in total expenses from April 2018 to March 2019, according to the latest available Form 990 on the nonprofit’s website.

The garden isn’t the only Richmond nonprofit to feel the sting of coronavirus. The Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, along with two partner organizations, launched a $3 million fund to support nonprofits focused on community services during the pandemic March 20.

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