US restaurant industry decries end to negotiations on additional federal aid package

Published on
October 14, 2020

Increased dining room restrictions in certain COVID-19 hotspots across the U.S. are further hampering restaurant sales across the country.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently released a plan to shut down non-essential businesses like restaurants in parts of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, where spikes in COVID-19 cases have occurred, Eater New York reported.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also said he would shut down indoor and outdoor dining in nine affected ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens, and remove indoor dining in 11 additional ZIP codes.

However, to shut down almost all of south Brooklyn “and punish small businesses that have reopened safely will be an overwhelming setback to the borough’s economic recovery,” Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers said in a press release.

“This is about common sense compliance and enforcement. At this point the rules for New Yorkers should be clear: Wear a mask, keep socially distant, wash your hands and use sanitizer often. Don’t shake hands when you can do a Brooklyn elbow bump instead,” Peers said.

Meanwhile, restaurant and bar owners in Wisconsin are concerned about their survival after the state's governor, Tony Evers, initiated a 25 percent capacity limit on indoor dining for restaurants and bars.

“I’m deeply concerned [about my business],” Jeno Cataldo, who owner of Dorsia and Jo Cats in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Here in Milwaukee, we stayed closed longer – weeks longer –  than everyone else. We got our act together and we suffered. Now we've complied with everything, we've done the training, and the state is going to do this to us?”

Conversely, some other states have eased dining restrictions as COVID-19 cases have declined. Florida recently allowed restaurants and bars in the state to operate at 100 percent capacity, while Maine is allowing indoor dining at 50 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower.

In recent months, trade groups representing the foodservice sector have pushed Congress for additional financial aid. Independent restaurants and bars are pushing for the passage of a USD 120 billion (EUR 102 billion) Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was included in the recently-passed HEROES Act. The RESTAURANTS Act, from which the program is derived, has the bipartisan of 209 House members and 40 senators. However, U.S. President Donald Trump recently halted negotiations with U.S. House Speaker Nanci Pelosi, a move criticized by the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC).

"If Congress and the president walk away from negotiations, even more of our neighborhood restaurants will go out of business. Restaurant employment decreased in nine states ... and this industry remains the largest contributor to national unemployment,” the IRC said in a press release. “We cannot afford five or six more weeks of decreased revenue, more debt, and uncertainty about colder weather.”

Photo courtesy of Jade ThaiCatwalk/Shutterstock

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