Restaurants help establish the unique character of our communities.
But "restaurants are dying," says legendary chef Marcus Samuelsson. "Four out of five of our favorite independent restaurants may not survive this shutdown."
That heartbreak is increasingly common as independent restaurant owners face an economic apocalypse. Together, they make up a half million small businesses across the country, directly employing 11 million Americans, with an economic impact that is felt up and down the supply chain, from farmers to fishermen.
Most survived on small profit margins before the Covid-19 crisis compelled many to temporarily close, and re-open at 25% capacity, operating with skeleton crews doing takeout and serving food outdoors when the weather permits. (But remember: Once the weather turns cold, the outdoor seating work-arounds will no longer be operative — and without a vaccine, many will be forced to close their doors forever.)
Now, they're trying to convince Congress to throw them a much needed lifeline in the form of the Restaurants Act, a bipartisan bill to establish a $120 billion grant program distributed through the Treasury Department.
Despite one-third of Congress co-sponsoring the bill, it has not been taken up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as negotiations for a new round of relief drags on. One of the bill's original co-sponsors, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker said in a statement to CNN that, "The growing momentum for the Restaurants Act in the Senate and the House is something that should be considered as the next recovery package comes together ...This relief is also critical for other businesses in the restaurant supply chain like farms, bakeries, beverage distributors, and truckers."