The beatings will continue until morale improves: The new capacity limits being imposed by state governments due to their panic over the Wuhan flu will likely destroy the bulk of the remaining restaurants that have managed somehow to get through the lock downs.
As some states across the country allow businesses to reopen with limited occupancies, there are still serious obstacles in the paths of restaurant owners. In those Tennessee counties that have already reopened, restaurants can’t exceed 50 percent of their maximum occupancy. Restaurants in most of Iowa will also have the option to reopen at half capacity. Those in Alaska will be limited to 25 percent capacity, and will only seat diners who make reservations in advance.
Ryan Pernice, who owns three restaurants north of Atlanta, didn’t jump with excitement when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp released a list of 39 guidelines in advance of a push to open certain businesses — including restaurants — on April 27. Most notably for restaurant owners, the guidelines do not allow more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet in dining rooms. After Pernice closed his restaurants on March 17, leaving just one of his restaurant kitchens open for delivery, he sat down to crunch some numbers.
Even with the lights and the walk-in refrigerators turned off, running a restaurant remains an expensive endeavor. Pernice decided to continue paying for services, like pest control, that couldn’t just be ignored, as well as major costs like rent and outstanding vendor invoices. To break even and cover expenses at Table and Main, Osteria Mattone, and Coalition — his three restaurants — would cost $4,128 a day. Though he’ll take the measurements and rearrange the tables to see if reopening is feasible, Pernice can’t imagine hitting that number with only half of the seats in his restaurants occupied. “Not having run the numbers, I seriously doubt that in Table and Main, a tiny restaurant of 1,800 square feet, that I could make more doing sit-down dining than I can right now through our takeout … I think there’s very little to be gained by being the first to this party, in terms of opening the dining room again.”
In other words, under these new rules, a large percentage of the remaining restaurants will be unable to make a profit and die.
The lock downs are expected to bankrupt 20% of all restaurants, putting more than 8 million people out of work. These new rules will probably destroy, at a minimum, another 40%, mostly the smaller, independently owned businesses.
And the rules are absurd, on their face. They will not stop the spread of COVID-19, in the slightest. All they will do is destroy the lives of the people who own the restaurants.
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