The National Restaurant Association on Monday issued a letter to congressional leadership urging them to pass a new federal relief bill by the end of the year, bolstered by a state-by-state survey of more than 6,000 restaurant operators and 250 supply chain businesses from across the country.
According to the association’s “COVID-19 Restaurant Impact Survey” conducted in November, 52 percent of Georgia restaurant owners and food business operators expect sales to continue decreasing over the next quarter. As business conditions deteriorate, total labor costs higher than prior to the health crisis, and cold weather making outdoor dining less feasible, 27 percent of owners say they are now considering temporarily closing their restaurant until the pandemic ends. Nearly 40 percent of Georgia restaurant owners don’t expect their business to survive another six months without federal aid coming from Congress soon.
Like so many small business owners reeling from the financial crisis caused by the pandemic, Manuel’s Tavern owner Brian Maloof counted on another round of stimulus money this fall. With business down an average 62 percent and the bar losing around $25,000 per month since April, Maloof told Saporta Report recently it was likely he would close the bar permanently by the end of December. To put it into perspective, a typical December sees Manuel’s generating $310,000 in sales during the holidays. Maloof expects that figure to total just $75,000 this year.
“We’ve gone from 340 chairs inside to 40 chairs outside,” Maloof said. “We’ve got about 70 percent of our tables blocked off. We normally have 22 bar stools, and we reduced that down to eight.”
A GoFundMe campaign launched last week to pay Manuel’s 2021 liquor license and cover insurance and payroll for the next two months has raised over $170,000, sparing Maloof from closing the 64-year-old bar this month. However, these grassroots fundraising efforts aren’t longterm solutions and won’t save the restaurant industry.
Bipartisan support for a new stimulus bill that would pump more than $900 billion into the economy came just after the Thanksgiving holiday. But the majority of the money will be directed to industries other than hospitality. While it does infuse an additional $300 billion into the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), the proposed bill falls short in addressing the needs of the floundering restaurant industry and its workers.
“In short, the restaurant industry simply cannot wait for relief any longer. Efforts in Washington to find the ‘perfect’ solution are laudable, but the lack of progress in the meantime has led too many operators to give up on the government and close down for good,” the association’s letter reads, in part. “Since our last update to you, less than three months ago, an additional 10,000 restaurants have closed nationwide.”
When negotiations on the relief bill between parties fell apart in October, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear he would refuse to pass any bill that didn’t include protections from liability for employers if staff became sick while working during the pandemic. It’s a stance that continues to delay the passage of the bill and leaves the restaurant industry’s workforce financially and physically vulnerable to the virus.
Negotiations in Congress continue in hopes of reaching a compromise to pass some form of financial relief for small businesses by the end of the year.
Click here to read the full results of the National Restaurant Association survey.