As restaurants and bars in Seattle continue to struggle due to COVID-19 measures put in place, many in the industry are attempting to make their voices heard by lawmakers for quick economic relief.
On Monday, a recently-formed coalition of local independent restaurateurs and chefs called Seattle Restaurants United submitted a petition to city, state, and federal officials, asking for a list of policies it feels would be most effective in helping restaurants weather the current storm. The petition was signed by a virtual who’s who in the Seattle food scene, including Renee Erickson, Mutsuko Soma, Edouardo Jordan, Tom Douglas, Chera Amlag, Kristi Brown, Rachel Marshall, Chris and Anu Elford, Brian Canlis, and many others. More than 100 restaurants have signed on so far.
Their main concern is that current efforts by local and federal lawmakers (such as temporary eviction reprieves and and greater access to small business loans) isn’t going to be enough to stop the devastating impact COVID-19 will ultimately have on restaurants. And as Congress continues to debate an expansive relief package, there’s a feeling across the industry that independent restaurateurs have largely been shut out of the national conversation. Seventy-five percent of all independent restaurants in the U.S. that have been temporarily closed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus won’t reopen, according to one recent estimate quoted in the New York Times.
With that alarming forecast, these are some of the requests from the new petition:
- Provide rent abatement for businesses and workers
- Increase unemployment insurance from 66 percent to 80 percent
- Waive interest and principal payments on all Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for 90 days
- Create an emergency fund to provide natural gas, electricity, and water utility relief
- Mandate that insurance policies covering business interruption to cover lost sales during the time of mandated dining room closures
- Increase the cap on SBA 7(a) funds from $5 million to $10 million
- Guarantee 100 percent of SBA loans
- Create an additional 90-day deferral for excise taxes (which are usually levied on goods such as alcohol); there was an excise tax deferral for February, but the main concerns surround cash flows for the next two months, as it’s unclear when dining rooms will be allowed to open again in the area
“While we wholeheartedly agree with the decision to close our public spaces for the health of our communities, it is essential that we receive city, state, and federal support to survive these [restaurant] closures,” said Seattle Restaurants United in a statement. “For us to be able to open our doors in the future, restaurants will need more than just to pay their past due bills.”