WASHINGTON – A catering group urges Congress to act, saying more than 86% of independent restaurants and bars that have not received COVID-19 financial assistance are at risk of closing.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition wrote an open letter to Congress earlier this month. The letter was signed by more than 3,300 restaurants and bars in the 50 states. In addition, more than 5,000 people from the restaurant and bar community, including vendors, have signed the letter.
The coalition is calling on Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which has provided $ 28.6 billion in aid to more than 100,000 restaurants. However, the IRC said 177,000 applicants are still awaiting funding.
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“Many of these restaurants and bars have been in debt for 21 months and cannot suffer a further drop in income,” the IRC said in a press release.
Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public policy at the National Restaurant Association, said the industry needed at least $ 40 billion to fund the nearly 200,000 applicants who did not receive grants.
“Congress has come home and the restaurants and bars in his neighborhood are going bankrupt,” said Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.
While most restaurants in the United States are open unrestricted and often bustling, owners enter their second winter of the coronavirus pandemic worried about what to expect: They are pressed by labor shortages and skyrocketing food costs and the omicron variant is looming.
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“I am extremely worried. I never felt like I came out of the woods,” said Caroline Glover, chef and owner of Restaurant Annette in suburban Denver in Aurora.
The rapid spread of omicron is already hitting industry in the United States and elsewhere. According to the IRC, more than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed since the start of the pandemic. Nearly one in five restaurant owners (18.3%) said their credit score was below 570 during the pandemic, according to the IRC, with many of those operators no longer able to take loans.
Glover, Colorado, is worried about renewed restrictions if infections increase. For now, business is back, with its dining room at full capacity – up from a 50% cap last year – and four greenhouses outside booked well in advance.
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But recruitment remains a challenge. In a recent survey of 3,000 American restaurateurs, 77% said they did not have enough workers to meet demand, according to the National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group.
U.S. restaurant and bar sales reached about $ 73.7 billion in November, up 37% from the same month last year, according to preliminary data from the US Census Bureau. But that was in part due to higher menu prices as restaurants try to account for inflation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.