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New York City’s restaurant industry loses 140,000 jobs during pandemic

Louise Hall
·4-min read
<p>New York City restaurants are currently permitted to serve take-out and to offer sidewalk dining, they are not allowed to offer indoor dining </p> (Getty Images)

New York City restaurants are currently permitted to serve take-out and to offer sidewalk dining, they are not allowed to offer indoor dining

(Getty Images)

New York City restaurants and bars have lost over 140,000 jobs during the coronavirus pandemic as the industry continues to be hard hit amid the ongoing crisis.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance told The Independent that the sector experienced a 43 per cent drop in employment across 2020 and a “shocking” 55 per cent loss in the full-service restaurant sector.

“Restaurants and bars are essential to the social and economic fabric of New York City and the industry job loss is at a crisis level like we’ve never experienced,” Andrew Rigie, the association’s executive director, said.

Between December and November alone, the industry lost another 11,700 jobs, which the alliance said could be attributed to more permanent restaurant closures, the rescission of indoor dining, and the winter months.

“If New York City is to pull itself out of this economic grave and gain jobs, we must safely bring back regulated indoor dining like it’s permitted in the rest of New York State,” Mr Rigie said.

The industry has suffered severe blows since the pandemic gripped the US in March, with establishments in many areas having been forced to close or limit capacity during stay-at-home orders.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) said that the coronavirus stimulus package passed by the Trump administration in December does “falls short” of providing support to the industry.

"This bill falls woefully short of giving 11 million independent restaurant workers the job security they need before the holidays,” the trade group said in a statement at the time.

“When we've been asked by the government to change the way we do business, our elected officials need to help us stay in business. It’s clear Congress wants to help us and we gave them a plan to do that. This legislation isn’t it.”

Mr Rigie called on the Biden Administration to enact the Restaurants Act stimulus plan to support businesses “very soon.”

The Act, which seeks to establish the $120 billion targeted fund geared toward assisting small restaurants and bars impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, passed the House in October.

Restaurant workers have criticsed the “trickle-down” nature of the funding saying it will be left open to exploitation by employers.

Restaurant owners can use the grants for a variety of eligible expenses including payroll, rent, supplies, PPE, and debt incurred during the pandemic.

A petition created by Restaurant Workers United argued that open-ended allocation for funding will allow owners “simply pocket their grants, lay off their staff, shut down, and ride out the pandemic.”

“This would be a disaster not only for restaurant workers, but for the entire US economy,” they wrote.

The group called for regulation of the funding through an amendment to the Act which would require business owners to support workers with the bailout money.

Independent restaurants directly employ 11 million workers and indirectly support 5 million more up and down the food and hospitality supply chain, according to the IRC.

The National Restaurant Association reported that 110,000 establishments across the country had already been forced to shut their doors by December 2020.

“More than 500,000 restaurants of every business type—franchise, chain, and independent—are in an economic free fall,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for Public Affairs, said in December.

In New York City, in particular, restaurant owners are still forced to limit their trade to curbside and takeout only as other cities start to re-open their doors to customers.

In an interview with Good Morning America, Mr Rigie said that believed the city had been “forgotten” by officials.

“Why is indoor dining closed in New York City when it's open at 50 per cent indoor occupancy around the rest of the state where the infection and hospitalisation rates are higher?,” he asked.

He added: “We've stepped up to serve our neighbors and front-line workers -- while we're in the midst of our own crisis -- to be treated with disregard is shameful.

“But it's not too late for all levels of government to step up and provide restaurants and workers the support they need to give them a fighting chance of survival."

The city, which became the epicentre of the pandemic during the first wave of the outbreak in April, has recorded over 550,000 cases of the novel coronavirus disease and 26,000 deaths.

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