Even as some U.S. municipalities and states are expanding capacity for indoor dining, restaurants are pressing Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act.
The U.S. House of Representatives included the RESTAURANTS Act in its most recent COVID-19 relief proposal, and the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) is urging the Senate to follow suit.
“Congress must quickly pass this COVID-19 relief proposal and give America's 500,000 independent restaurants a fighting chance to survive,” the IRC said in a press release.
The RESTAURANTS Act, the IRC said, is the "best plan" so far to save independent restaurants.
“By including the RESTAURANTS Act, the revised version of the HEROES Act is the best plan Congress has put forward to protect the livelihoods of the 11 million people employed by independent restaurants across the country,” IRC said. “Independent restaurants are out of options, and by providing flexible grants based on revenue losses to independent restaurants who need them, Congress can ensure many businesses have a shot at surviving colder weather and getting through the pandemic.”
If signed into law, the new COVID-19 relief plan would establish a USD 120 billion (EUR 102 billion) grant program for independent restaurants and bars to cover costs such as payroll, rent, supplies, and PPE.
In its first two weeks of operation, grants would be prioritized for establishments owned by members of marginalized and underrepresented communities, with a focus on women and minority-owned and -operated entities. Priority would also be given to establishments with annual revenues of less than USD 1.5 million (EUR 1.3 million), IRC said.
The federal aid is sorely needed, according to the National Restaurant Associaton, which estimates that 100,000 restaurants have closed or will be forced to close by the end of this year.
Additionally, one in three California restaurants said they will either close permanently or downsize by closing some locations, according to the California Restaurant Association.
Meanwhile, some cities and states are expanding dining options – both indoor and outdoor – as concerned restaurant operators enter the colder winter months.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is allowing indoor dining to reopen at 25 percent capacity starting on 30 September, and said the city is expanding its successful outdoor dining program year-round.
“Outdoor dining has transformed New York City’s streetscape for the better and has been a critical lifeline for thousands of small businesses and jobs throughout the five boroughs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie and NYC Hospitality Alliance Counsel Robert Bookman said in a press release.
In Florida, Governor Rick DeSantis said restaurants can now operate at a minimum of 50 percent capacity – meaning they are fully open. However, many restaurant operators in the state have said they are not yet comfortable expanding capacity.
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