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January 7 — Mayors of New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and 21 Other U.S. Cities Urge Congress to Refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as Omicron Surges


January 7, 2022


Jeff Solnet

Mayors of New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and 21 Other U.S. Cities Urge Congress to Refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund as Omicron Surges

Today’s BLS Report: Restaurant Employment Remains Far Below Pre-Pandemic Levels Amid Omicron Surge 

Over 82% of Restaurants Report They Are in Danger of Closing Without an RRF Grant 

***Read the Letter Here***

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) released a letter (below) signed by current and former mayors from 31 cities calling on members of Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). This comes as the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its December jobs report showing over 653,000 fewer people are employed in restaurants and bars since the start of the pandemic. The Omicron variant and Congressional hesitancy to provide relief continue to stall small business recovery.  Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported Senators Wicker (R-MS) and Cardin (D-MD) are drafting new legislation that would refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The Mayors, who represent over 19 million Americans, argue that not giving restaurants relief would be “catastrophic” and go on to say, “the Omicron variant is causing more strife for restaurants and bars in such peril that they might not survive the winter.”

“Restaurants are closing around the country, thousands of jobs are on the line, Mayors of major cities are begging members of Congress to save these businesses, and yet the Biden Administration is not ready to act” asked Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Nearly 200,000 restaurants that applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund did not receive support. Now the Omicron Variant is forcing small businesses to choose between keeping their staff and community safe and paying their bills. Congress and the White House need to make helping restaurants a priority before it’s too late.”

Restaurants around the country are out of options as the Omicron variant forces businesses to close their doors to protect their staff and customers. Many of these restaurants and bars have accumulated 22 months of debt and cannot take another revenue downfall.  Nearly 200,000 restaurants and bars who applied for relief were left behind by the underfunded program and are in danger of permanent closure. The industry is in dire straits:

  • Over 82% of restaurant and bar owners report they are in danger of closing without an RRF grant according to an IRC survey.

  • More than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed since the beginning of the pandemic. 

  • The Omicron variant is affecting restaurant reservations in cities around the country. Reservations in Brooklyn (56%), Chicago (64%), New Orleans (52%), and New York (70%) are far below their 2019 levels. 

  • 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.

  • 60% of adults changed their dining habits due to the Delta variant according to the National Restaurant Association. The Omicron variant is inflicting the same hesitancy amongst diners around the country.

  • The prices of supplies have surged in the last year including beef and veal (41%), grains (38%), and shortening and cooking oil (44%).

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.

Existing legislation to refill the RRF carries wide bipartisan support. 295 lawmakers in the House of Representatives and 52 members of the Senate have signed onto four pieces of legislation supporting adding money to the RRF (H.R. 3807, H.R. 4568, S.2091, and S. 2675). 


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.


January 7, 2022

The Honorable Chuck Schumer

Majority Leader

United States Senate

U.S. Capitol Building, Room S-221

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader

United States Senate

U.S. Capitol Building, Room S-230

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi


United States House of Representatives

U.S. Capitol Building, Room H-232

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

Minority Leader

United States House of Representatives

U.S. Capitol Building, Room H-204

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy;

Restaurants in big and small cities across the country are hurting, and if they do not receive help soon the impact on our local economies will be catastrophic. The sudden emergence of the Omicron variant is causing more strife for restaurants and bars in such peril that they might not survive the winter. Without Congress acting urgently to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) 86% of independent restaurants and bars that didn’t receive grants risk permanently closing. 

Failing to refill the RRF soon will cause widespread closures and deal another blow to our already fragile supply chains. Prices have already shot through the roof for basic products like beef (41%), grains (38%) and shortening and cooking oil (44%) — losing the restaurants these suppliers depend on would cause even more harm to this tenuous system.

Local independent restaurants and bars are vital to our economies. Restaurants and bars breathe life into our neighborhoods, provide unparalleled opportunities for career advancement and facilitate commerce between local suppliers. Now these small businesses, many that have served our communities for decades, are on the edge of shutting their doors forever. Over 100,000 restaurants and bars received vital protections from the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund included in the American Rescue Plan, but over 177,000 applicants were denied funding altogether. These businesses cannot compete with their peers that can pay down their debts, make repairs and hire workers at competitive rates — it is not fair for the government to pick winners and losers.

Restaurants and bars are months beyond struggling, they are dying in plain sight. They have 22 months of debt from missed rent, supplier and utility payments and are putting off repairs that needed to be addressed months ago. The cold weather has ended outdoor dining and now the omicron variant is reinvigorating fears in guests who are scared to eat indoors. These small businesses on the brink of financial ruin have to compete with their counterparts that can pay down their debts, pay competitive rates and take whatever extra measures necessary to keep their guests and staff safe. Congress cannot only fix a third of the problem the pandemic created — representatives need to ensure these small businesses have the relief they need to navigate the uncertain future and pay down their debt.

That’s why we’re writing to ask that you refill the RRF with additional aid for this 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 52 Senators have signed on in support of refilling the RRF.

We have worked with these business owners to develop policies and grant programs — developing additional revenue streams to help these restaurants and bars stay afloat. Despite our efforts, over 90,000 restaurants have closed and the industry has lost over $280 billion during the pandemic. Now time is up for the more than 177,000 restaurants and bars languishing in the SBA’s application program. Restaurants serve our communities, employ families, and feed our economy. We need your help so they can continue serving our cities for years to come.


Mayor Eric Adams, New York, NY

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, Lincoln, NE

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin, Raleigh, NC

Former Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee, WI

Former Mayor Thomas W Bernard, North Adams, MA

Mayor London N. Breed, San Francisco, CA

Mayor Aaron Brockett, Boulder CO

Mayor LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans, LA

Mayor Mike Coffman, Aurora, CO

Mayor Kate Colin, San Rafael, CA

Mayor John Cooper, Nashville, TN 

Mayor Kate Dexter, Port Angeles, WA

Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford, Camden, SC

Former Mayor Jenny Durkin, Seattle, WA

Mayor Jacob Frey, Minneapolis, MN

Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles, CA

Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Denver, CO

Mayor Farrah N. Khan, Irvine, CA*

Mayor Tim Keller, Albuquerque, NM

Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia, PA

Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knoxville, TN 

Mayor Lori E Lightfoot, Chicago, IL

Mayor Esther E. Manheimer, Asheville, NC

Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City, UT

Mayor Lauren McLean, Boise, ID  

Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore, MD*

Mayor Libby Shaaf, Oakland, CA 

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, Cambridge, MA*

Mayor John J Tecklenburg, Charleston, SC

Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston, TX*

Mayor Miro Weinberger, Burlington, VT 

Mayor Michelle Wu, Boston, MA

*Denotes Mayors who signed the letter after January 7.