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Restaurants need financial assistance and our support

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

This is not a “Help Wanted” ad for restaurants, even though many do need workers.

This message is about the need for customer support and financial assistance to keep many restaurants in business.

We in Louisiana enjoy our food and our selection of restaurants is very pleasing and one of our many selling points in attracting visitors and new residents. While many businesses have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic amid closures, perhaps no single sector has suffered more than our restaurants, many of which are small, privately- owned.

When the statewide closing of restaurants and bars came in mid-March, some restaurants were able to stay open and provide orders for pickup and delivery. Some with drive-thru windows possibly even prospered. However, most restaurants had their business crater. When they were able to open for 25 percent seating capacity, then later, 50 percent seating capacity that helped. But restaurants cannot survive at 50 percent capacity. Bars without food service have been ordered closed and need assistance to survive.

Amid the closing of the historic K-Paul’s restaurant in the French Quarter and others in the New Orleans area, Stan Harris, President/CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association says the LRA has projected up to 40 percent of restaurants could be lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, it’s a real threat that a significant percentage of the restaurants we know and love may permanently close unless specific relief is given on the federal level. One such idea is legislation that has been introduced known as the “Real Economic Support that Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act of 2020” (RESTAURANTS Act of 2020)

According to the National Restaurant Association, “The introduction of this bill provides hope of survival for small business restaurant owners from the smallest towns to the broadest urban streets. It will help these struggling businesses, regardless of the sign on the door, who are still facing a difficult and uncertain future. We appreciate the leadership of Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), whose work with us ensured that the bill reflects the needs of our independent and small franchise owners.”

The restaurant association reminds us that the food service industry employs 10 percent of the U.S. workforce, and has an economic impact of more than $2.5 trillion dollars annually. Overnight, they were told to shut down dining rooms, send home workers, and find new ways to do the one thing they do best — serve their communities. And they did. But the industry bore the brunt of the pandemic shutdown. More than 8 million workers are now unemployed and businesses lost more than $120 billion in sales.

Right now, restaurants across the country are struggling on every front. They are trying to figure out how to make ends meet when they are only allowed to fill 25-50 percent of their seats. They owe rent and have invoices for food that are past due. They are paying extraordinary prices for the safety measures they want to put in their dining rooms to keep their workers and patrons safe. And they are wondering how they will ever find the money to pay for it all.

Americans love going to restaurants, especially our favorite restaurants in our communities. Their support and enthusiasm is a reminder of the role that the industry plays in our daily lives.

“To be the engine that the economy relies on, restaurants need help” according to the National Restaurant Association. “The pandemic is not over, and we don’t know what the next few months will hold for the industry. We hope that working with Congress and the Administration, we can ensure that restaurants can continue to welcome everyone to their tables.”

The closure of restaurants not only affects those employees, but there is a domino effect to farmers, produce companies, linen services, and many other businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program helped many restaurants but as one restauranteur said, it was an eight-week fix to a nine-month problem.

What can we do? We can purchase meals at area restaurants, whether dine-in, pick-up, or delivery. We can buy gift cards from our favorite restaurant for your employees, family, and friends. And we can urge our U.S. Senators and Congressmen to support targeted help for this vital industry. Now, to my favorite thing, let’s eat! And be sure to give a generous tip to your server.

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