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July 16 – Prominent Texas Restaurateurs Call on Congress to Pass The RESTAURANTS Act and Protect 357,000 Texas Jobs and $66 Billion Restaurant Economy

alba huerta

July 16, 2020

Jeff Solnet

Prominent Texas Restaurateurs Call on Congress to Pass The RESTAURANTS Act and Protect 357,000 Texas Jobs and $66 Billion Restaurant Economy  

Independent Restaurant Revitalization Fund Would Inject $15.3 billion into Texas’ Economy, Ensure 236,800 Small Farms Stay in Business

Legislation is Co-sponsored By Texas Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX 16)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, prominent Texas restaurateurs and Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) members called on Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to support the RESTAURANTS Act.  On the press call, Texas restaurateurs Kevin Fink, Alba Huerta, Tim Love, and Chris Shepherd asked their representatives to support the legislation and outlined its potential impacts on the state and national economies.

The RESTAURANTS Act would establish a $120 billion Independent Restaurant Revitalization Fund geared toward assisting small restaurants and bars impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Last month, the legislation was introduced on a bipartisan basis in both the Senate by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and in the House by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR 3). The legislation already boasts 80 cosponsors in the House and 5 cosponsors in the Senate, including Sens. Doug Jones (D-AL), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

“We need leaders in our public officials now more than ever," said Kevin Fink, chef & owner at Emmer & Rye and Hestia in Austin, TX, and Independent Restaurant Coalition leadership team member. "We need champions of our state and country and the RESTAURANTS Act is smart legislation. It is an investment that would pay for itself more than twice over and protect millions of jobs across the country. Texas stands to benefit from this more than just about any other state, through our farms, fishermen, ranchers, and restaurants. Texans know that supporting our state and industries that are the lifeblood of it makes sense. It is easy to know the need that all of these sectors feel and it is easy to fix it. Don’t let our elected officials get caught up in politics, we need action and support from the people we elected to represent us.”

According to a recent economic report from Compass Lexecon, the fund would return up to $271 billion in economic benefits, as well as reducing nationwide unemployment by 2.4%. The legislation would be particularly impactful in Texas, where the leisure and hospitality industry has contributed to nearly a third of all jobs lost since March.

The IRC projects the RESTAURANTS Act would:

  • Generate $15.3 billion in economic benefits for Texas.
  • Protect 357,000 Texan jobs.
  • Protect Texas’ tourism industry, which stands to benefit $8.5 billion from the RESTAURANTS Act, the 2nd largest gain in the nation.
  • Help ensure Texas’ 236,800 small farms stay in business, along with providing $1.5 billion in economic benefits directly to suppliers like bakers, fishermen, butchers, and others.
  • Save Texas $2.7 billion in state unemployment benefits and insurance taxes.

“Anybody who knows a bartender knows we truly earn every cent we make” said Alba Huerta, bartender and owner at Julep Houston in Houston, TX. “But if we can’t pour a single drink, there’s no amount of hard work that can keep us open. I don’t think I’ve ever seen our industry so afraid of the future. We’re asking for our representatives to support the RESTAURANTS Act so we can continue putting millions of Americans to work, and continue being the places of celebration and community that this country will need on the other side of this crisis.”

Last week, several major U.S. corporations announced their support for the RESTAURANTS Act. The companies – American Express, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, Hyatt Hotels, Resy, Sysco, and US Foods – warned Congress that, without restaurants, “every one of our businesses would be impacted and the economic framework of cities and towns across all parts of the United States would be dramatically altered for the worse.” They concluded that “Congress must pass The RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 in the coming weeks.”

Last week, over 215 small businesses that supply restaurants also called for the passage of the RESTAURANTS Act. According to a recent economic report from Compass Lexecon, restaurants’ and bars’ suppliers employ over 5 million workers across the country.

“An investment in independent restaurants and bars is a fifteen billion dollar investment in Texas” said Tim Love, chef and owner at Fort Worth area restaurants Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Woodshed Smokehouse, Queenie’s Steakhouse, Gemelle, Atico, Love Shack, and White Elephant Saloon. “What we’re asking for is unprecedented, but so is the support we’ve seen around getting this bill passed. Everybody knows this bill is needed. It’s why companies like Coca-Cola, Sysco, and Delta wrote about their support last week, with over 215 suppliers sending a letter to Congress the week before. Leaders in Congress like Reps. Kevin Brady, Kay Granger, and Michael McCaul need to support the RESTAURANTS Act and get our economy back in business.”  
“I don’t get afraid but, today, I’m afraid,” said Chris Shepherd, chef and owner at Georgia James, UB Preserv, and One Fifth Mediterranean in Houston, TX, Independent Restaurant Coalition leadership team member and founder of Southern Smoke Foundation. “If restaurants fail, it will impact everyone in a widespread and tangible way. Without restaurants, suppliers of products like meat and produce will be forced to raise their prices to accommodate the lost business. Many of the people who have lost their jobs from this pandemic won’t be able to afford a variety of impacted foods. This is so much bigger than just the restaurant industry, but one thing is certain: without Senators Cruz and Cornyn supporting the RESTAURANTS Act, we will not be fine.”

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 workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Coalition’s leadership team includes Tyler Akin, José Andrés, Kevin Boehm, Sean Brock, Katie Button, Andrew Carmellini, Ashley Christensen, Jeanie Chunn, Amanda Cohen, Tom Colicchio, Nina Compton, Rosa Garcia, Suzanne Goin, Gregory Gourdet, Will Guidara, Mason Hereford, Sam Kass, Max Katzenberg, Mike Lata, Camilla Marcus, Ivy Mix, Kwame Onwuachi, Patrick Phelan, Erika Polmar, Naomi Pomeroy, Steven Satterfield, Michael Shemtov, Nancy Silverton, Frank Stitt, Bobby Stuckey, Robert St. John, Caroline Styne, Jill Tyler, and Andrew Zimmern.

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