Restauratuer says industry is realizing coronavirus effects will last 12-18 months

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While the coronavirus pandemic has taken a harsh toll on the industry, award-winning restaurateur Kevin Boehm said on Friday that many restaurant owners now believe the repercussions of the public health crisis will be a 12-18 month problem.

“As an industry, we’re 500,000 independent restaurants, we’re 11.1 million jobs that are truly on the brink of going away forever,” the Chicago restaurant owner told "America's Newsroom."

Boehm said that there was a survey conducted showing that only one in five restaurant owners believe that they will be able to open after the shutdown is over, while complying with social distancing guidelines and seeing far less demand.

“That means 80 percent of restaurants might go out of business," Boehm said.

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The restaurant industry — and those that rely on it for employment — have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with most eateries around the country being forced to limit service, lay off workers, or shut down altogether.

More than 8 million restaurant employees in the U.S. have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the outbreak, and the majority (61 percent) of restaurant operators say the government’s relief programs won’t prevent further cuts to the workforce, according to new numbers released by the National Restaurant Association on Monday.

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The White House in early April had laid out a framework for reopening businesses, workplaces and communities across the country, albeit in phases, and only after a strict set of criteria for health and safety is met within each state or region.

Restaurants and bars will technically be able to resume operations by the final phases, but what constitutes “operations” remains to be seen. After all, will restaurateurs and consumers embrace pre-coronavirus normals and standards, even in a post-coronavirus world?

Boehm said that the restaurant operators in Chicago whom he's been talking to have shown various stages of “fear, helplessness, and tears."

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"Everybody realizes this is not a three-month problem, as we originally thought. It is a year- to 18-month problem because restaurants, unlike other industries, when we reopen, we have entirely different problems: tables that are going to be six feet apart, no business travel, no tourists," he emphasized.