December 9 — Over 3,300 Restaurants From All 50 States Fear Permanent Closure This Winter and Urge Congress to Fund Restaurant Grant Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 2021
Over 3,300 Restaurants From All 50 States Fear Permanent Closure This Winter and Urge Congress to Fund Restaurant Grant Program
Restaurants to Congressional Leadership: “Time is Up”
86% of Restaurants That Haven’t Received Grant Relief At Risk of Closure if Congress Does Not Replenish RRF
**Read the Letter Here**
**Watch the Press Conference Here**
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the Independent Restaurant Coalition unveiled a letter signed by over 3,300 restaurants and bars from all 50 states that reported they are in danger of closing if Congress does not replenish the RRF. Over 5,000 people from the restaurant and bar community, including suppliers, signed the letter. These small businesses nationwide are grappling with more than 20 months of accumulated debt, rising food costs, and consumer hesitancy from the Omicron variant. Their applications have languished in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund application portal for nearly 200 days, waiting for Congress to deliver the relief they need.
“Congress can prevent thousands of businesses from closing, a massive supply chain disruption, and widespread job loss by replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund immediately,” said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “This impacts constituents in every single state. Our elected officials did not adequately fund this wildly successful grant program and now time is up for thousands of restaurants and bars who applied and did not receive relief. Congress must act swiftly and decisively to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and save small businesses that will soon close in every state.”
“Despite a busy summer and fall, we have not even begun to recoup the loss we experienced over the pandemic,” said Lindsay Mescher, Chef/Owner, Greenhouse Cafe in Lebanon, Ohio. “It is extremely unfair that some restaurants got relief and others didn't. By not replenishing these funds, Congress is saying that some restaurants are worth saving and others aren't. These funds would have guaranteed our survival. Senators Portman and Brown need to do what they can to ensure that restaurants and bars like mine have the capital they need to keep our doors open.”
“By the end of January, I will permanently close my restaurant if Congress does not refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” said Dwayne Allen, Owner, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, Arizona. “I have hung onto my restaurant for this long hoping that my government would recognize that this is a time of need for restaurants. Unfortunately, members of Congress picked winners and losers and now our businesses will pay the price. Senator Sinema played an enormous role in providing our industry with the initial $28.6 billion in relief. We know that she is going to fight tooth and nail for neighborhood restaurants on the brink of permanent closure.”
America is home to over 500,000 independent restaurants and bars, which supported 16 million jobs before the pandemic. Just 101,004 restaurants and bars received an RRF grant this year, but nearly 200,000 were left behind in the first round of funding and are in danger of permanent closure. Restaurants and bars lost over $280 billion during the pandemic yet only received $28.6 billion in targeted relief.
“Going into March of 2020, my business was debt free. Now, I find myself with over $100,000 in business and personal debt,” said Sara Lund, Owner/Operator, Bodega and The Rest in Salt Lake City, Utah. “After not receiving the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, I had to drain all of my personal savings and put that into the business to keep it afloat and keep my staff employed. Our government asked us to close our doors and help our communities be safe — we all did that. We closed our doors, we changed the way we operated our businesses. For those of us that were left hanging in June, I feel like we deserve a fair playing field. I will close my business if Congress does not replenish the RRF. Senators Romney and Lee need to support this critical legislation — my business will not survive without it.”
“So many people are working themselves to the bone just to try and survive. It’s not because anyone is being a poor operator or is making poor decisions. It’s because costs have risen and they have taken on debt,” said Josh James, Director of Operations, Cru LLC in Knoxville, Tennessee. “It’s just made it impossible in an already slim margin of business to keep people employed. Restaurants and bars all around the Volunteer state have weeks, not months, before they shut for good. We need Senators Blackburn and Hagerty to help us by supporting refilling the Restaurant Revitalization Fund — the time is now.”
The Independent Restaurant Coalition is advocating for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act, which would provide an additional $60 billion in funding to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The plan is gaining rapid bipartisan support in Congress– at least 223 members of the House of Representatives and 43 members of the Senate have indicated their support for the bill, which was introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in the Senate and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) in the House.
Restaurants and bars are struggling to survive 20 months of debt, rising supplier costs and the omicron variant threatens to push more restaurants and bars into permanent closure.
Over 86% of restaurant and bar owners report they will close without an RRF grant according to an IRC survey.
According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Omicron variant is already affecting restaurant reservations in cities around the country. Reservations in Baltimore (42%), Chicago (33%), Denver (20%), New Orleans (42%), and New York (40%) are far below their 2019 levels.
According to a survey conducted by the Independent Restaurant Coalition, Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) of restaurant owners reported having their credit scores reduced below 570 during the pandemic — many of these operators cannot take on any more loans including from the remaining SBA programs like EIDL.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 60% of adults changed their dining habits due to the Delta variant. The Omicron variant threatens to inflict the same hesitancy amongst diners around the country.
The prices of supplies have surged in the last year including beef and veal (57%), grains (55%), eggs (36.7%) and shortening and cooking oil (41.5%).
These businesses have a mountain of insurmountable debt that is continuing to build — 51% of restaurants could not pay their September rent.
Suppliers are joining together to push for restaurant relief as well. Recently, nearly 30 winemakers, restaurant suppliers and trade groups, including Toast, Baldor Foods, US Foods and DoorDash called on Congress to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) in a letter sent to Congressional leadership by the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC). These organizations, representing many of the five million workers restaurants support through the supply chain, cautioned Members of Congress about the cataclysmic effects allowing restaurants and bars to close would have on their businesses.
ABOUT THE IRC:
The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant and bar workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy;
Our industry is grateful to Congress for passing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund earlier this year but neighborhood restaurants still need help — and we can’t wait any longer. Our small businesses are struggling to survive: food and supply costs have skyrocketed, diners are more apprehensive with each new COVID variant, winter weather makes outdoor dining impossible, and we have immense debt after almost two years of business disruption. Many businesses that have managed to scrape by anticipate closing forever in the next few months if they don’t receive a Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grant.
Over 100,000 restaurants and bars received vital protections from the $28.6 billion RRF included in the American Rescue Plan, but 177,000 applicants are still waiting for funding. Over 86% of independent restaurants and bars like ours who didn’t receive grants risk closing permanently without relief. It’s not fair to help some businesses navigate the rising cost of staying in business by helping pay down debts, make necessary repairs and hire workers at competitive rates. The government should not pick winners and losers — this pandemic impacted all of us, and we all deserve a fair shot.
That’s why we’re writing to ask that you refill the RRF with additional aid for our industry. A broad, bipartisan majority of lawmakers support bills to get this done in both the House (H.R.3807 and H.R.4568) and the Senate (S.2091 and S.2675). To date, 295 representatives in the House and 51 Senators have signed on in support of refilling the RRF.
Time is up for our nation's 500,000 local, independent restaurants and bars, as well as the 16 million people we employ and the millions of farmers, fishermen, beverage distributors, and others up and down the supply chain. Restaurants serve our communities, employ families, and feed our economy. We need your help so we can continue serving you for years to come.