Coronavirus continues to take huge toll on restaurants and bars

Restaurants and bars have suffered a tremendous financial setback as people stay at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even under a gradual reopening beginning in June, the industry is projected to lose $240 billion by the end of 2020, according to the National Restaurant Association.

An OpenTable report shows that reservations and foot traffic into watering holes and restaurants plummeted 95% through May 13, compared with a year ago. And this sector of the economy has shed jobs. In 2019, there were more than 9.6 million food service workers in the U.S., according to the Labor Department. Last month, 5.5 million “food service and drinking places” workers lost their jobs, according to the latest jobs report.

The crisis has effectively erased more than three decades of restaurant job growth, according to the National Restaurant Association. The organization also projected sales for the restaurant industry would be $899 billion in 2020, up from $863 billion in 2019. It is now calling on Congress for help.

“For an industry with sales that exceed the agriculture, airline, railroad, ground transportation, and spectator sports industries combined, a restaurant relief and recovery program is desperately needed,” the National Restaurant Association wrote to congressional leaders on April 20.

House Democrats on Tuesday introduced the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill that the chamber passed on Friday.

The legislation expands eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program, which would help restaurants and bars, but it does not provide direct aid to the industry. In fact, the word “restaurant” appears only twice in the bill, which spans more than 1,800 pages: once in defining essential workers and again in regard to procuring food for people affected by the virus.

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