Restaurants on life support with new closures, curfews and no additional stimulus


Restaurants around the nation are finding it harder and harder to weather the pandemic as a new slate of curfews and closures on top of no additional government relief push them into an even deeper financial hole.

In recent weeks, governors around the country have implemented curfews and mandated that bars and restaurants shutter dine-in operations by 10 p.m. local time in order to stem the now surging pandemic that has shown no signs of slowing down before the holiday season.

Restaurant owners, however, fear that the latest round of restrictions poses a threat to their businesses, even those within the country’s most bustling cities.

“We have fought for this business and will continue to fight for this business,” McClellan’s Pub in Colombus, Ohio wrote on Facebook just before Gov. Mike DeWine announced a statewide curfew.

Ohio’s curfew, enacted Thursday, forces businesses to close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for the next three weeks.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread in Ohio, we need a stronger response to minimize the impact on Ohio’s healthcare and hospital capacity and ensure healthcare is available to those that need it,” said Gov. DeWine. DeWine said the latest restriction will “minimize the spread of the virus while minimizing the economic impact of a complete shutdown.”

However, thousands of restaurant owners argue they are suffering as a result.

McClellan’s Pub is among thousands that had signed a petition dubbed “#WeCantClose” to urge DeWine not to close restaurants and bars again. The campaign — established by a group of owners and operators in the service industry — has already notched over 6,000 signatures.

“Too many of us are suffering with continued shutdowns,” the pub wrote.

The owner of bar Sluggers in Chicago, Zach Stauss, told WBBM-TV that although the measure is vital in keeping “everyone safe and healthy so there is a 2021” it is still hitting his business hard.

“It’s about 80% of our business from 9:30 p.m. and 1 in the morning, so it’s really, really killing us,” Stauss said. “It hurts.”

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a similar monthlong curfew for counties that are seeing the highest rates of positive cases and hospitalizations.

David Mulvehill, owner of O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in San Jose, told KGO that the curfew hits them right at their “prime time” which is between 9 p.m. and 12 a.m. on a Friday and Saturday. Now, Mulvehill says the last call for drinks is 9 p.m.

In Philadelphia, a collection of restaurant owners were so frustrated over recently enacted restrictions that they collectively sued the mayor.

As part of Philadelphia’s new “Safer at Home” restrictions, indoor dining will be prohibited through Jan. 1, which restaurant owners say will destroy their business.

“COVID-19 does not distinguish between the indoor airspace of other businesses that defendants, Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia, are allowing to remain operational, such as national big-box chain retailers (e.g. Walmart; Target; Home Depot), and small mom-and-pop businesses, such as barber shops, salons, and daycare centers,” the 11-page complaint.

The complaint also alleges that the restrictions violate their rights.

“The edicts of the “Safer at Home” policies have no relation to nor bearing upon the conduct of business, liberty, and other constitutional rights,” the complaint reads.

In New York, frustrations ran high after Cuomo ordered bars, restaurants and any other establishments with state liquor licenses to end indoor and outdoor dining by 10 p.m.

New York State Restaurant Association CEO and President Melissa Fleischut said the latest restrictions were a “huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat” during a pandemic that has already resulted in widespread closures and layoffs.

One of the many New York restaurants to suffer is Socarrat Paella Bar.

“We did drop in sales, and we think that between 15 to 20% is because of the coronavirus,” Paolo Del Gatto, Operations Manager at Socarrat Paella Bar said.

Although Salil Mehta, the owner and chef of New York City’s Laut and Laut Singapura, said his establishments weren’t as impacted as other places, he admitted it’s hard to see what has become of what was once such a vibrant city.

“What hurts to see is NYC losing its mojo again and literally looking like a ghost town after 10,” he said.