Washington Examiner: Reopening, but in danger: Restaurants fear for survival under social distancing

By Jay Heflin
Washington Examiner, June 3, 2020

Restaurants across the United States are slowly and gradually reopening but face an existential risk: Many restaurants cannot survive below full capacity, meaning that the jobs of the roughly 6 million servers and bartenders laid off in the pandemic are still at stake. ...

Furthermore, patrons are not the only ones concerned about dining out. Some servers are also worried about returning to work.

“It’s too soon,” said Ned Atwater, owner of six restaurants in Maryland.

The state now allows restaurants within the state to serve patrons outside, but Atwater told the Washington Examiner that employees are worried about returning to work.

“All of us have mentioned at one point or another that it's too soon,” he said. “By opening up the patio and eventually inside, we’re just increasing that risk, so we’re all concerned.”

His restaurants are open for curbside pickup or deliveries, and to make ends meet, he recently received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government to help cover payroll and other expenses. The loan allowed him to rehire staff, but it will soon run dry and likely force another round of layoffs.

“Once it runs out, which is pretty shortly, we’re going to look at our model again and probably have to lay off staff that we laid off at the original shutdown,” he said, adding that whether or not his business can survive without providing table service is now a “week-by-week evaluation.”

Many states that have allowed restaurants to reopen have done so for outdoor dining only, which is in line with demand. Only 19% of people are “very comfortable” and would “go to a restaurant immediately” for dine-in service, according to a recent poll by Toast, a provider of point-of-sale software to the restaurant industry. ...

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Copyright 2020 Washington Examiner

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