Washington , A restaurant trade group is urging Congress to take action, saying more than 86% of independent restaurants and bars that have not received COVID-19 financial relief are at risk of closure.
independent restaurant alliance wrote an open letter to Congress earlier this month. The letter was signed by more than 3,300 restaurants and bars in all 50 states. In addition, over 5,000 people from the restaurant and bar community, including suppliers, signed the letter.
The coalition is asking Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provided $28.6 billion in relief for more than 100,000 restaurants. However, the IRC said 177,000 applicants are still awaiting funding.
“Many of these restaurants and bars are in 21 months of debt and can’t take another revenue drop,” IRC said in a news release,
Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public policy at the National Restaurant Association, said the industry needs at least $40 billion to cover the nearly 200,000 applicants who did not receive grants.
“Congress has gone home and their neighborhood restaurants and bars are going out of business,” said Independent Restaurant Coalition executive director Erica Polmer.
While most restaurants in the US are open without restrictions and bustling often, owners entering their second winter of the coronavirus pandemic are worried about what lies ahead: They are squeezed by labor shortages and skyrocketing food costs. And the Omicron version is shrinking.
“I’m extremely concerned. I never felt like we were out of the woods,” said Carolyn Glover, chef and owner of Restaurant Annette in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
The rapid spread of Omicron is already affecting the industry in the US and elsewhere. According to the IRC, more than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed since the start of the pandemic. According to the IRC, almost 1 in 5 (18.3%) of restaurant owners reported their credit score to be below 570 during the pandemic, with many operators not being able to take out any further loans.
Glover in Colorado is concerned about new restrictions if infections climb. For now, business is back, with her dining room back at full capacity — up from a 50% cap last year — and the four greenhouses outside already booked.
But staffing remains a challenge. In a recent survey of 3,000 U.S. restaurant operators, 77% said they don’t have enough employees to meet demand, according to the National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group.
According to preliminary data from the US Census Bureau, US sales at restaurants and bars reached an estimated $73.7 billion in November, up 37% from the same month last year. But this was partly due to higher menu prices as restaurants try to account for inflation.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.