The Surge: how to help local restaurants
Everyone is exhausted.
I hardly feel like writing this, because I too am exhausted. Not just because of the omicron I currently house in my vaxed and boosted body, but because of fear, worry, confusion, and just: all of it.
And yet, how not to do it?
Tomorrow marks the start of the vax/test mandate at restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I know you know this, because there have been a million articles about the mandate, and even more asking restaurants what they think of the mandate. Some restaurants say they’re happy, some say they’re worried, but I can’t help but think that’s the wrong question. That asking what they think of the current mandate is like asking a drowning person what that last sip of seawater tastes like.
Spectacular? Probably, but I’m trying to break down the widespread frustration and exhaustion I see there to help you understand that many local restaurants are on the brink, yet again. But this time there is no fund, no PPP, not much owner forgiveness as everything and everyone is exploited in the last 22 months. And the rallying cries are quieter too, so here I am.
A Bloomberg article last week outlined the national situation, according to data obtained from the Independent Restaurant Coalition: “Sales fell at 98% of restaurants across the country in December, according to a survey of 1,169 restaurants by the Independent Restaurant Coalition. Sales fell by at least half for 58% of respondents, while 80% of restaurant owners said omicron had an impact on their opening hours. »
What I’m hearing across town is that while January post-holiday activity typically drops to 80-85% of average activity, restaurants are seeing a drop to 40-50%. Is the vax mandate about to solve this problem? Not likely. It’s a stretch to believe that people who care enough to be vaxed and boosted are watching the groundbreaking cases, the current healthcare crisis, the distance learning/daycare conundrum and planning to dine this hard. I know that’s not the purpose of the vax mandate, but it’s being talked about as if it’s a concession to help keep restaurants open. Yes, everything went well in Chicago and a little in Seattle, and New York has its own way of handling the situation. But ours feels a bit too late. And I’m not really sure it’s not just throwing a towel on that lead.
Because meanwhile, even outside cities and the vax card problem, restaurants have to close for a day or two due to infections. Or due to loss of personnel. Or due to supply chain issues. And it’s an industry that measures its sales hourly, so without business hours, there’s no money coming in. I know you’ve heard this drumbeat before, but it’s not like everything has settled down over the past few months. We may have evolved because our attention spans found something brighter to obsess over, but restaurants had only just begun to emerge from obscurity when this wave arrived. Perhaps, like some exhausted and angry commenters on some social sites, you remember restaurants receiving millions of dollars in aid from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. But the vast majority did not. About 60% of those who applied did not because the money ran out in 12 days. And those who did probably didn’t get a million. In fact, the average grant was $300,000. And yet, I know of one owner, who didn’t get that free money, said he expected to lose $100,000 by the end of February.
One of the hardest parts is that I want to keep you hopeful, give you respite from the disaster and the gloom with good news of openings and restaurants planned on the horizon. I want to talk about all the good stuff in the industry, and I feel like I did this summer when I could sneak down to the bar and buy a big set of spins for my buddies and myself. imbue with the feeling that we saved it, we saved our beloved restaurant scene. But I can’t yet.
So, I pull a Bernie and ask you once again to support your local restaurants: buy takeout or dine in or buy gift cards and merchandise, whichever feels safer for you on your trip. COVID. If you’re eating out and making reservations, keep them or cancel them with enough time so it’s not a total waste for the night. If you limit your outings: order extra, for leftovers the next day (leftovers are a special balm for exhaustion). If ever there was a time to carry cash for extra tips, it’s now.
Especially in these next few weeks when we’re supposed to hit omicron’s peak, which will hopefully soon collapse, your restoration dollar could be an investment towards better days ahead: when we’re not exhausted and that we find a way to truly love each other again. I own my role as Sally Positive.
Tim Niver, who is about to close his Mucci’s in Uptown, said even more on his Niver Niver Land podcast: “Restaurants and the people who work in restaurants need your help…restaurants are devastated right now. moment. …Go to the places that show you love, and you show them love in return. Keep on going.”
If you haven’t harassed your politician to restart this FRR fund, do it now.