Restaurant owners voice support for $120B revitalization fund as industry is decimated by closures


Restaurant owners behind major eateries and even mom-and-pop joints are showing their support for the Federal 2020 Restaurants Act.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition, which was formed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, is seeking support for the act, claiming that over 500,000 restaurants – representing 11 million people in vital food services jobs – are facing permanent closure nationwide.

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The coalition further estimated that 85 percent of smaller independent restaurants are at risk of closure without the help of Congress.

The 2020 Restaurants Act, introduced in June, is seeking to establish a $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund “to provide structured relief to food service or drinking establishments” through the end of the year.

In the months since its introduction, famous chefs and independent restaurateurs have voiced their support for the bill.

“Our city, our business, our staff, our suppliers and our community are all in a dire state of trouble if we don’t get the leaders of our city, state and government to act NOW,” wrote esteemed New York City chef Daniel Boulud in a recent social media post.

Over 1,300 New York restaurants and bars are now closed permanently, and 160,000 people in the restaurant and bar industry are still jobless.

In Tennessee, Wes Agee and Elizabeth St. Claire, the owners of Charlie’s Barbecue and Bakery in Chattanooga, are down to the wire.

“Between capital expenses and increased food, Elizabeth and I have spent out of Charlie’s, or had put back into Charlie’s, over $70,0000. And we’re only able to do that for two reasons. God has blessed us and our customers are phenomenal,” said Agee in a statement to News Channel 9.

“We might have to lay off our employees, we might not be able to buy from our local vendors as much,” added St. Claire. “It’s a butterfly effect.”

Dallas chef Tiffany Derry also discussed her struggles on Instagram, in a post that also included a video from the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

“I might not get on here and tell you every day the struggles myself or colleagues are going through because Heck we all are going through something,” she wrote. “What I need you to hear me on is that your favorite restaurants might not be here next year.”

Restaurant owners across the nation have been eager to open for months and ease COVID-19 restrictions. Many states have already eased some of the capacities for indoor dining, but it may not help enough, some owners claim.

Restaurants “can’t make a profit” on 25% capacity, said Eileen Kean, the director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses in New Jersey, where indoor dining will resume Friday at 25% capacity.

Kean added that Gov. Phil Murphy should consider expanding to 50% and full capacity soon. New Jersey restaurants had already been cleared for outdoor dining, but Murphy had delayed reopening indoor dining, citing health concerns about the spread of the virus inside.

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The Restaurant Act – also known as the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive – has 161 cosponsors in the House and a companion bill has 27 cosponsors in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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