In a demonstration in support of presidential candidate Joe Biden, more than 150 chefs and restaurateurs across the country signed a open letter condemning President Donald Trump’s handling of COVID-19, which they say has created an “existential crisis” for restaurants. The letter, titled “Restaurants for Biden” and published by the Biden Campaign, details how conflicting information from government officials and the president, as well as shortcomings in the PPP loan program, personal protective equipment shortages and “the Capability of arbitrary social distancing cap guidance ”, created a perfect storm that put“ the prospect of a recovery in an even deeper hole ”.
The list of signatories includes dozens of respected and well-known chefs whose restaurants and bars represent both fine dining and more casual establishments. Signatories include celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner, TV star and baker Duff Goldman, chef and cookbook author Anita Lo, Nina Compton of Compère Lapin in New Orleans, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco. and Fran Camaj, owner of the Los Angeles restaurant group based in Gjelina. A number of chefs and owners who signed the open letter run restaurants that have notably closed – temporarily or permanently – during the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, independently owned and operated restaurants have been routinely overlooked and ignored by the federal government, receiving little – if any – clear direction or financial support. When President Donald Trump met with a group of restaurateurs in mid-May During a roundtable to discuss the expansion and modification of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), restaurant owners and CEOs in attendance were notably all male, mostly white, and almost exclusively represented the interests of large companies and gourmet restaurants. Earlier, in April, the White House assembled a equally small group of fast food CEOs and gourmet chefs advise on a plan to support the restaurant industry.
The PPP loan program that CEOs and chiefs were in the White House to discuss during the May roundtable has been the subject of criticism since its inception. In a first round of PPP financing, the franchise locations of large restaurant chains such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse received millions of dollars in loans. It was only after facing pressure and public scrutiny that many of these big chains repaid the funds. By this point, the first round of funding had been exhausted, excluding many small restaurants that had applied. Loans often failed to reach and support black restaurateurs. The surrender requirements – a majority of the loan money must be spent on payroll and staff rehiring – have left even restaurateurs who made receive funding without knowing if they could or should use their loans to pay rent, utilities and jumpstart their plans to reopen.
As restaurants continue to close at an alarming rate across the country, federal support and guidance remains extremely limited, and as winter approaches, many restaurants are about to close permanently. The open letter denounces the Trump campaign for “failing to lead our country through this crisis.” The signatories write therein:
Throughout the crisis, the restaurant industry begged this administration for help. We pleaded with the authorities to correct the P3 program, recognize the impending tsunami of restaurant closings that we are now starting to see, and respond with a plan. Yet at every turn the president has mismanaged the response. He downplayed our struggles, refuted the idea that restaurants would suffer because they depend on social interaction, and insisted that there was no shortage of personal protective equipment needed to keep people safe. safety of restaurant staff.
Unlike the president, who restaurateurs say has “proven unfit for the post of president,” they argue that Biden is ready to tackle the current crisis and show restaurants the support they so badly need. Biden has pledged to raise the minimum wage and end the peak minimum wage if elected, and his campaign site outlines plans to reform the way PPP loans are made so that they better serve small businesses, and “enable small businesses in need to both keep workers on the payroll and cover costs fixed for the duration of the crisis. From Trump, the signatories of the letter write:
He has let down the restaurant industry, our employees, our customers, and the stakes are too high to continue down this path. America needs new direction and real leadership. We need to elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.
As president, Joe Biden would take the immediate steps necessary to resolve the COVID crisis and support American small businesses and restaurants in our recovery. It would establish a real small business fund to ensure that resources are earmarked for restaurants, main street stores and other entrepreneurs. It would allow more generous loans that would allow small businesses in need both to keep their employees and to cover fixed costs throughout the duration of the crisis. And it would provide a guarantee that every qualifying small business will get relief, rather than cap funds in a way that forces small businesses to compete with each other.
The more than 150 chefs and restaurateurs who signed the letter, which you can read in its entirety here, claim that American restaurateurs “deeply believe in the American dream” and create economic opportunities through their businesses. They also point out that beyond their economic impact, small businesses such as neighborhood restaurants “contribute to the uniqueness of American cities.” Restaurant owners sign warning and call to action: “Without a change of direction, many of our businesses simply will not survive to see an end to this crisis. We have to elect Joe Biden on November 3.
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