‘Top Chef’ star Tom Colicchio on crisis facing restaurant industry: 'Our workers are really hurting'

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“Top Chef” judge and restaurant owner Tom Colicchio said on “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday that he is feeling “optimistic” after lawmakers struck a deal on a $2 trillion relief measure to provide aid to those most severely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Colicchio made the comment on the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled tepid support for the Senate’s multitrillion-dollar coronavirus response package, saying the bipartisan deal has moved from “corporations-focused to workers-first” and her colleagues will review the plan.

“Our workers are really hurting right now,” said Colicchio, owner of Crafted Hospitality.

“What they're looking for is to know that they’re going to have a paycheck, know that there’s money in the stimulus package for restaurant workers and not only our workers, but for everybody up and down our entire supply chain including our suppliers, our fishermen, our farmers, our liquor companies, people who deliver linen.”

He went on to say that he is “happy” that “it seems that the Senate has reached a deal between [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell.”

“We're really optimistic about that and now we’re hoping Nancy Pelosi and [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy can agree on something in the House.”

Colicchio said the restaurant industry is looking for “forgiveness of guaranteed loans because we can't layer on a bunch of debt.”

He noted that restaurants can use stimulus dollars for payrolls to make sure their employees “can take care of their families," pointing out that at least 13 million people work in the industry.

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He said it was even more important to get the money to those restaurant employees “so they can stay home because right now we have to stop the spread of this virus or we’re not going to have an economy, we’re not going to have restaurants that will open up.”

Colicchio added, “We want to make sure we have restaurants that will open and be able to sustain themselves through the period of at least another 12 months until either we have a cure, a vaccine, for the virus or enough people have antibodies to it.”

He then acknowledged that “we're looking at a long way to go,” but added that a “cushion” is needed “to make sure that businesses are open so workers have a job to come back to.”

Colicchio also told host Sandra Smith that he doesn’t think restaurants should even be open for pickup orders and delivery service as the country deals with the coronavirus outbreak.

“For me personally, I understand the impetus to try to have some revenue coming through your doors and do whatever you can, but I actually believe that we're putting a lot of our employees at risk,” he said. “Just today our industry got the sad news that one of our colleagues has … passed away from COVID-19 so I think it's really important to make sure our workers stay home, keep them off public transportation.

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“Let's get through this virus and then we can reopen strong,” he concluded.

Fox News' Brooke Singman and Gregg Re contributed to this report.