Independent Restaurant Coalition Runs Ad to Support Congressional RESTAURANT Act

August 3, 2020 by Gracie Kreth
Ground Zero is a blues club in Clarksdale, Mississippi that is co-owned by Morgan Freeman, attorney Bill Luckett, and Memphis entertainment executive Howard Stovall. (Photo by Deisenbe via wikipedia commons)

WASHINGTON – As Congress and the White House continue to negotiate another package of coronavirus relief, the Independent Restaurant Coalition is stepping up its effort to make sure they are included in the emergency funding this time around. 

This week, the Coalition is running a television and online advertisement, featuring actor Morgan Freeman. 

“Neighborhood restaurants we love are closing everyday, knocking a rung off the ladder of someone’s American dream,” said Andrew Zimmern, a founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, host and executive producer of MSNBC’s “What’s Eating America”.

“Nearly 40% of independent restaurants are owned by immigrants,” he said. “They are America’s favorite first job, the top employer of non-white managers, and employ over one million single moms. They are passion projects and community lifelines. They are our family, and we hope this ad reminds Congress of the stakes facing their communities during the pandemic. 

“Independent restaurants simply cannot generate enough revenue to stay open and continue employing 16 million people around the country without relief from Congress,” Zimmern added.

Earlier this summer, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., with Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., introduced the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive, or RESTAURANTS Act.

The bipartisan bill would establish a $120 billion grant program run by the Department of the Treasury to support operational costs of restaurants, bars, food trucks, catering business, and other food and drink establishments suffering due to the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding would go to help the 500,000 restaurants that aren’t publicly traded and have less than $1.5 million in revenue and would be used to pay rent, mortgage, payroll, personal protective equipment, and other similar costs — determined by comparing the businesses’ 2019 to 2020 revenue. This money will not need to be repaid.

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants employ about 11 million people and about 5 million people make up the food supply and delivery chain. The industry accounts for four percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Restaurant consulting agency Aaron Allen & Associates estimated one-third of restaurants will face closure in the United States, and of the Americans who lost their job in the pandemic, one in four were in the restaurant industry. 

With support in both the House and Senate, 165 lawmakers have already signed on to the bipartisan bill, and more are expected to join this week.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten millions of jobs supported by America’s small and independent restaurants,” Wicker said when he introduced the bill. “These small businesses are hurting because of the costs of restocking perishable foods, retooling their operations, and they still cannot operate at full capacity even as the country reopens. The RESTAURANTS Act would save many of these businesses, benefiting their workers and the farmers, fishermen, distributors, and truckers that rely on them.” 

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