Posted: Jan 08, 2022
Small restaurants are heading back to Congress for help, saying their challenges are worsening as the Omicron variant drives a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, U.S. restaurants and bars are dealing with higher costs, accumulating debts and customers fearful of the latest virus variants, according to a letter signed by more than 3,300 operators and sent to Washington lawmakers in December. The restaurant operators said they were in danger of closing permanently if a federal fund adopted last year to assist the food-service industry isn’t replenished soon.
“I can’t go into further debt to salvage this restaurant,” said Dwayne Allen, owner of the Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, who fell behind on his restaurant’s rent after closing the business for long stretches during the pandemic. He said he has to pay his landlord in full by the end of January and has taken out a $48,000 loan to do so.
“I have no idea where that money is going to come from,” said Mr. Allen, who signed the letter organized by the Independent Restaurant Coalition, an advocacy group for small operators formed in 2020 in response to the pandemic.
David’s Pizza in Spokane, Wash., said sales have rebounded from 2020, but its staff of 18 is down from 27 and customers are sometimes turned away.
Congress created a nearly $30 billion fund last year to help struggling restaurants, but the money ran out within weeks of its launch. Lobbyists for the industry, including the National Restaurant Association, pressed lawmakers to replenish the fund.
“In the outbreak of new variants, restaurants are the first ones to suffer,” said Sean Kennedy, a vice president at the restaurant lobby, “so there is heightened interest in moving on this.”
Mr. Kennedy and other industry advocates have found support from Sens. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) and Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), who are working on a bill that would provide additional Covid-19 relief funding to a range of small businesses, including restaurants.
No legislation has been introduced and any bill would likely face resistance from Republican lawmakers, who have said that Congress already doled out too much money to private industries during the pandemic.
By Heather Haddon
Source and complete article by: wsj.com
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