Coronavirus and the restaurant industry: Petition and fundraisers hope to keep eateries, bars afloat

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It’s no secret that many bars, restaurants and other food-service establishments across the country are suffering during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic due to new government restrictions and self-isolation efforts from the public. In response, many famous chefs have rallied together to support a major petition to help keep these establishments afloat during this difficult time.

Nonprofits and grassroots groups are also coordinating direct financial contributions to benefit bars and restaurants.

On March 17, a petition called "Save America's Restaurants" went live on Change.org, and has since received more than 128,000 signatures as of Thursday morning. Arguing that restaurants and bars are a critical community pillar, as well as an essential industry that employs millions of people, the appeal demands "swift action" to help establishments survive through these unprecedented times.

A pedestrian walks by a closed sign on the door of a restaurant on March 17 in San Francisco.

A pedestrian walks by a closed sign on the door of a restaurant on March 17 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Acknowledging that needs may vary from place to place, the petition calls for emergency employment benefits to be granted to workers laid off or otherwise affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The petition also called for waiving payroll tax, endorsing rent and loan abatement for employees, urging coordination with state liquor officials to allow restaurants offering delivery and take-out to also sell or deliver alcohol by the bottle, and waiving zoning restrictions to allow eateries to use their space for alternative purposes to continue paying staff and supporting purveyors.

A notice posted in the window of Hourglass Tavern on Manhattan's Restaurant Row notes that the kitchen is closed as coronavirus cases and fears continue to spread on March 16.

A notice posted in the window of Hourglass Tavern on Manhattan's Restaurant Row notes that the kitchen is closed as coronavirus cases and fears continue to spread on March 16. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The “Save America’s Restaurants” petition has since been signed by chefs Alice Waters, Hugh Acheson, Curtis Stone, Nancy Silverton, Stephanie Izard and Reem Assil, among many more.

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As for direct contributions, Eater reports groups like Dining Bond Initiative, Southern Smoke Foundation and Give Local are coordinating direct financial assistance for restaurants, while the United States Bartenders Guild is working to help bartenders affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

On Wednesday, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) asked the White House and congressional leaders for at least $455 billion in aid for relief, claiming the industry could lose nearly half of its 15.6 million workers during the coronavirus crisis, in addition to a quarter of annual sales, Reuters reports.

Empty streets, restaurants and cafes make up the business area in the one mile containment zone on March 11 in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Empty streets, restaurants and cafes make up the business area in the one mile containment zone on March 11 in New Rochelle, N.Y. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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“The restaurant industry is one of low margins, tight cash flow, and a workforce that depends on us for their livelihood. Without aggressive and immediate action from the federal government, many restaurants that are a staple of local communities will simply never resume service,” Sean Kennedy, NRA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said in the letter. “We urge you to take critical steps to support America’s restaurant industry and the 15.6 million workers we employ.”

National measures regarding Covid-19 have resulted temporary business closings and restaurants to limit orders to ''take-out, only,'' in Sherman Oaks, Calif., as seen in this March 18 photo.

National measures regarding Covid-19 have resulted temporary business closings and restaurants to limit orders to ''take-out, only,'' in Sherman Oaks, Calif., as seen in this March 18 photo. (John Fredricks/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Much like the larger “Save America’s Restaurants” bid, the NRA appeal’s proposed requests include direct and targeted financial relief, loans and insurance options for impacted small businesses and additional tax measures to benefit food and drink-serving businesses.

A sign indicating take out and delivery services are available is displayed in a window of a restaurant in the University District of Seattle, Washington on March 18.

A sign indicating take out and delivery services are available is displayed in a window of a restaurant in the University District of Seattle, Washington on March 18. (Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Monday, President Trump released new coronavirus guidelines for the nation, urging Americans to avoid dining at bars, restaurants or food courts.

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As for the fast-food and fast-casual industry, some national chains like Chick-fil-A, McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, Applebee's and more are modifying how they serve customers through the ongoing outbreak. Many are limiting orders to drive-thru, take-out or delivery, as well as instituting other health and safety protocols.