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The Next Stimulus Package is Being Discussed. Is the Hospitality Industry Part of the Conversation?

The Senate and White House are discussing what will be included in a fifth stimulus package.

Not everyone is in agreement with what should be included in the next package, and Senate Republicans are reportedly butting heads on key elements.

We’re halfway through this week and the turbulence between the GOP and White House makes it unlikely that a stimulus package will be signed into law by Friday.

The Washington Times reported that Sen. Rand Paul stormed out of this week’s Senate GOP lunch meeting over the potential cost of the package. Other reports claim Sen. Ted Cruz asked, “What the hell are we doing?” during the same lunch, which took place yesterday.

Senate Democrats have yet to be brought into the conversation to negotiate their terms, exacerbating the situation.

I reported two weeks ago that Sen. Mitch McConnell mentioned the hospitality industry and how hard it has been hit during the pandemic. However, since details regarding what the next stimulus package will include are scant, it’s unknown if the RESTAURANTS Act, provisions of the National Restaurant Association’s Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, or other forms of impactful assistance for the industry will be included.

We’re past the midway point of 2020. It has been five months since the first shelter-in-place orders and mandated business closures were issued.

Over the course of those five months, the hospitality industry has been forced onto a rollercoaster, a rickety one that also happens to have been set ablaze. Operators have been subjected to a deadly cycle of business-killing ups and downs, costly closures and reopenings.

Flames are licking at the cars operators have been crammed into; some have been fully engulfed. This industry provides millions of jobs, supports communities in many ways, and generates hundreds of billions of dollars for the economy. It’s the second-largest private-sector employer in the United States and doesn’t deserve to be left to hurtle toward disaster—the country can’t afford to lose these businesses.

When the pandemic first started ravaging the United States, some operators closed their doors voluntarily for good of public health. When permitted to reopen, responsible operators enforced mask guidelines, standing firm as they faced abuse and, in some instances, violence from those opposed to face coverings.

Service is ingrained in hospitality professionals—they put others first before the pandemic and they continue to do so now. It’s time for that sacrifice to be honored and repaid. The industry needs targeted relief.

Millions of Americans—spanning all industries—have lost their jobs. Restaurant, bar, hotel and other industry operators attempted to adapt quickly, another characteristic of hospitality professionals. Soon, delivery and takeout were held up as revenue-generating silver bullets.

Neither have turned out to be a panacea for struggling businesses. To-go alcohol laws are bandages in the midst of this pandemic, traffic is still painfully slow, and cities and states are rolling back reopening phases. Without drive-throughs and established delivery and takeout infrastructures in place, independent venues haven’t been able to return to full strength. Some chains with such infrastructure are still struggling, halting expansion plans or closing existing locations.

Businesses that were able to weather the first storm of state-mandated closures survived to participate in countrywide reopenings. For most operators, that meant pouring scarce and limited resources into bringing back team members and replenishing inventories.

As any operator knows, veteran or neophyte, shutting down and reopening involves more than just unlocking the doors, flipping light switches, and turning on equipment. It’s expensive to close a restaurant or bar for an extended period of time, and it’s costly to reopen for even limited service with a shrunken menu.

Last month, several states saw spikes in COVID-19 infections. Those spikes signaled either the start of a second wave of the coronavirus or an evolution of the first wave. Anyone who has been scanning the headlines since June would come to the conclusion that cities across the country are setting near-daily infection records.

Operators who had feared being shut down after reopening watched as governors imposed new dining restrictions or once again shut down bars and restaurants.

Bars in Nevada, for example, were able to reopen—with restrictions—on May 29. All bars, taverns and breweries that didn’t serve food were ordered to close by midnight on July 10 by Governor Steve Sisolak.

On July 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all bars to cease operations in 19 counties throughout California. The same order prohibited indoor operations for restaurants and wineries in those counties. By July 13, the order applied statewide.

One million new COVID-19 cases were reported across the globe in the span five days earlier this month. It’s possible that the United States will hit one million new cases in the course of the next two weeks. New mandated hospitality venue closures are quite likely on the horizon if even a portion of those projected new cases become reality.

Owners, operators, hospitality professionals and the public they serve need to let their senators and state representatives know the industry needs targeted relief. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues…the entire industry must be part of the conversation.

Take action now and tell Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act. Click here to tell the US Trade Representative not to impose new tariffs on food and beverage products from the EU and UK.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

David Klemt View All

I’ve been studying and writing about the hospitality industry since 2006. Like so many people, I started my journey in this business by working as a host, server and bartender. I was introduced to nightlife in Chicago, learning the ins and outs of nightclubs and after-hours hot spots.

After moving to Las Vegas nearly 20 years ago, I both co-owned a valet company and helped promote the club it serviced. That led to me taking on the role of editor for a Las Vegas hospitality industry publication.

A few short years later, I continued along my journey of hospitality industry reporting. I went from contributing to a major industry outlet to taking on the role of editor and content curator.

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