Louisiana Restaurateurs Lobby for More Federal Aid

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Robért LeBlanc

NEW ORLEANS — The Independent Restaurant Coalition and local restaurateurs hosted a Nov. 4 press conference to ask lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to protect the restaurant industry from “mass extinction” by refilling the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Speakers at the event include Robért LeBlanc, Neal Bodenheimer, John Stubbs and Erika Polmar.

Data from the group: 

The September Jobs report indicates that restaurant and bar employment is down 930,500 jobs from the start of the pandemic. The Delta variant threatens to push more restaurants and bars into permanent closure. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed. There are now dining restrictions in more than a third of the states in the country. Restaurant reservations have plummeted in states across the nation; in New Orleans, bookings are far below their 2019 levels. According to a recent survey, 60% of adults changed their dining habits due to the Delta variant. These businesses have a pile of debt that is continuing to build — 51% of restaurants could not pay their September rent.

The difficulty facing restaurants nationwide is being acutely felt in Louisiana. The state is home to 9,553 restaurants, which employ nearly 238,600 leisure and hospitality workers. While 1,396 received an RRF grant and now have the financial flexibility to survive the pandemic, 2,978 restaurants were left behind in the first round of funding and are in danger of permanent closure unless Congress refills the RRF.

The IRC conducted an email survey indicating that the situation facing restaurants is more dire than ever:

  • 85% of restaurant and bar owners reported not receiving an RRF grant. 
  • Over 82% of restaurant and bar owners report concern they will close without an RRF grant. 
  • 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.

The Small Business Administration closed the RRF application portal, leaving over 177,000 restaurants and bars that applied for relief out in the cold. Restaurants and bars lost over $280 billion during the pandemic yet only received $28.6 billion in targeted relief. These businesses continue to deal with pandemic-induced headwinds — over the past year, the prices of beef and veal (57%), grains (55%), eggs (36.7%) and shortening and cooking oil (41.5%) have surged. This relief will give many of the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and bars the support they need to survive the pandemic as well as the 16 million people they support to survive the pandemic.

Categories: Dining/Entertainment, Food, Hospitality, Politics, Today’s Business News