US restaurant industry group protests shutdown orders

Published on
December 15, 2020

As restaurants around the United States continue to suffer economic losses from renewed indoor and outdoor dining shutdowns in several states, restauranteurs are holding rallies, sending letters to Congress, and filing lawsuits in an effort to survive.

On 15 December, the New York State Latino Restaurant Bar & Lounge Association – along with numerous celebrities and other supporters – held a “Tuesday Super Rally” in New York City to protest the closure of indoor dining in the city. Restaurants around the country went “dark” on their Instagram pages to support the rally.

“We won’t survive another shutdown. We need to send a message: no more shutdowns. They are destroying our restaurants, bars, lounges, cafes, cabarets, Broadway minority-owned small businesses,” the NYC Hospitality Alliance said in a press release. “We are rallying for rent relief, PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), grants, local and state funding programs, insurance relief, and help from our local leaders.”

The New York State Restaurant Association found that two-thirds of the state’s restaurants said they are likely to close by the end of the year without a comprehensive relief package specifically for restaurants. And, nearly 88 percent of businesses said they were unable to pay full rent in October, according to NYC Hospitality Alliance’s survey.

New Orleans, Louisiana-based Oceana Grill, meanwhile is suing its insurance company, Lloyd’s of London, to recover funds lost during COVID-19 pandemic closures.

Ocean Grill argued that its "all risk" policy with the Lloyd's underwriters should kick in due to closures, noting that the policy doesn't contain any provisions excluding coverage for losses stemming from viruses or global pandemics, Law360 reported.

Similarly, Boston, Massachusetts-based restaurant chain Legal Sea Foods sued its insurance company earlier this year over failure to cover business losses the company incurred from the COVID-19 pandemic. The case is ongoing.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition continues to urge Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, which provides direct grants to small restaurants and criticized a proposed USD 908 billion (EUR 745 billion) economic stimulus bill being floated as a potential compromise.

The compromise plan will be a “death sentence for many independent restaurants,” IRC Co-Founder Tom Colicchio said in a press release. “We’re one of the only industries asked by the government over and over again to close our doors, but this bill does not offer any plan to ensure we can fully reemploy our staff in the months ahead. We will not sit quietly while Congress fails the 11 million Americans who work in independent restaurants and bars. If they can set aside money for music venues and airlines, they can help neighborhood restaurants which are absolutely vital for the families and communities they employ.”

Photo courtesy of NYC Hospitality Alliance

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