Of the 23 million people who lost a job early in the pandemic, more than 6 million worked in the food and beverage industry. A recent report predicts up to 230,000 restaurants could permanently shutter by the end of 2020.
Now, restaurant owners have banded together to form the Independent Restaurant Coalition, which has the backing of some of the U.S. culinary industry’s top names and is lobbying Congress to pass a $120 billion bailout for small- and mid-sized restaurants.
“This is everything that will give us the necessary lifeline to get through this period, but also to get slightly past here and get open,” chef and TV host Tom Colicchio told CBS News’ Errol Barnett. “And so when we finally do have a vaccine and when the country finally opens up and people feel comfortable coming back, we’ll have restaurants to get back to.”
The group launched a new TV ad starring Morgan Freeman, aimed at urging Congress to help these restaurants survive the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sixteen million people risk losing their jobs, disproportionately impacting people of color and single mothers,” the actor’s voice can be heard saying. “Without your help our favorite places to eat will be gone, forever.”
Lockdowns imposed by state and local governments have prevented bars and restaurants from operating as normal and forced them to get creative to keep customers. Despite their efforts, most owners are barely keeping the lights on.
“Downtown is like a ghost town, you know. I think the buildings are about occupiable less than 50%,” Ohio restaurant owner Carolina Guttierez said. “We depend on the business people, especially here in the downtown area.”
Even after laying off staff and ramping up takeout at their two Ohio locations, Guttierez and her husband are worried they soon won’t be able to afford their $8,000 per month rent for Arepazo in downtown Columbus.
“The landlord needs to get his money. But if I’m down 50%, 60%, how am I going to come up with the money, you know?” she asked.
New Orleans-based chef Nina Compton shares their stress, having had to lay off nearly 100 people at her two restaurants to stay afloat. She said the economic impact is felt far beyond the doors of her establishments.
“This is about the farmer that provides me beautiful produce, this is about the fisherman that gives me beautiful shrimp. I’m keeping their jobs alive,” Compton said. “I’m fighting for many people that don’t have a voice that are, you know, in their kitchens right now just trying to make things work.”
And without government support for the Restaurants Act bailout, she said they “just can’t stay afloat.”
“Everybody’s looking for a bit of hope,” she said.
The Restaurant Coalition says its effort has already prompted thousands of calls to Congress and nearly 200 co-sponsors for the legislation in both the House and Senate. Lawmakers are still negotiating a new round of stimulus funding, and do not appear close to a deal.
“One of the best places to put stimulus through is the restaurant industry, because every dollar that we take in typically $0.95 to $0.90 go out the door. Our margins are that slim,” Colicchio said. “We’re not going to take this money and pocket it. We’re not going to pay bonuses to executives. We’re not going to buy back stock. This money will get out there in the community.”
Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas in England are opening their doors for the first time in three months after a major relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Businesses reopening on Saturday must observe strict social distancing rules.
As measures eased, Boris Johnson urged people to act responsibly, while the government’s scientific advisers said the latest step was not “risk-free”.
The health secretary has warned those who get carried away could be jailed.
Matt Hancock told the Daily Mail people were entitled to enjoy themselves at pubs, but added that people who start fights or cause other disorder “could end up behind bars if you break the law”.
Latest figures show a further 137 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total number of deaths to 44,131.
Restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas were allowed to reopen just after midnight, with some hair salons welcoming clients in the early hours, but pubs had to wait until 06:00 BST after Downing Street expressed fears of early morning partying.
Other places now allowed to reopen in England include:
Outdoor gyms, children’s playgrounds and other outdoor spaces
Libraries, community centres, bingo halls, cinemas, museums and galleries
Funfairs and theme parks, amusement arcades, outdoor skating rinks, social clubs and model villages
Chancellor Rishi Sunak welcomed the reopening of businesses. On a visit to The Bell and Crown in Chiswick, west London, he said Britain’s pubs and bars employ almost half a million people, “which is why it’s such good news that so many people are able to return to work this weekend, helping us all to enjoy summer safely”.
But some 31% of bars, pubs and restaurants will stay closed on Saturday, according to the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA).
NTIA boss Michael Kill said some association members felt “stuck in a bizarre tug of war between government, licensing and planning regulators and the police”.
People in England should stay 2m apart, but the new “one metre plus” guidance means they can get closer if they use “mitigation” measures, such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face.
Prof Robert West, an epidemiologist from University College London, urged caution as lockdown eases, telling BBC Breakfast: “The virus still is with us. We are looking at around 20,000 new infections a week and around 1,000 deaths a week and the rates aren’t coming down very fast so people have to be tremendously cautious here.”
He said the hospitality sector is doing “everything” it can to reopen safely, but added: “As we open up these businesses you will get more contact… and that means you will get more infections and unfortunately it means you will get more deaths.”
Asked about excess deaths and whether the UK has done better or worse than other countries, statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have done badly.”
This is a big moment. Hospitality chiefs have described it as an important development for the national psyche.
But it’s also a moment when health and economic concerns collide.
Trade body Hospitality UK estimates that 53% of pubs and bars and 47% of restaurants will reopen this weekend generating a total – they hope – of nine million visits.
But while a sector that employs three million people is keen to reopen, many are anxious. Will too many customers return to manage venues safely or too few to make it economically worthwhile?
Social distancing measures will both reduce capacity and increase front-line costs.
Three-quarters of businesses expect to run their businesses at a loss this year and the industry estimates that even if this weekend goes well, the sector could lose 320,000 jobs.
It is a high-stakes gamble and the government will be watching nervously to see how the public responds and behaves.
That will ultimately determine whether we are getting a sufficient economic bang for the health risk buck that medical experts say we are inevitably spending this weekend.
Sandra Jacobs was one of the first people through the door at her local hairdressers in Camden, north London, after midnight, describing it as “such a relief” to be back in the salon chair.
“My hair was everywhere. I’d been wearing hats to hide it,” she said, adding that her new haircut made her feel “normal again”.
Her hairdresser, Carole Rickaby, said it was great to pick up the scissors again. “We’re being very cautious with aprons and facemasks, but it can be a bit of a problem,” she said. “I wear glasses, so wearing a mask as well made my glasses steam up whenever I tried to talk.
“I ended up just telling Sandra she can talk to me and I’ll just listen.”
Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the coronavirus outbreak than during the same period in 2019, ONS figures show
Portugal has said its exclusion from a list of countries for which quarantine will not apply for people returning to England is “absurd”
Dozens of landmarks across the country will be lit up blue later to mark 72 years since the founding of the NHS
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