Restaurants shutter, leaving prospects uncertain for millions

Restaurants and bars in many states and the nation’s biggest cities were ordered closed on Monday in response to the coronavirus pandemic, threatening the livelihoods of millions of restaurant workers and the future of many small businesses.

The governors of Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have all ordered restaurants shuttered, Eater reported. San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles also joined the ranks ordering restaurants and bars closed. The industry employs 15 million nationwide and was expected to generate $900 billion in sales this year, before the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.

In an early sign of the industry’s distress, Seattle Chef Tom Douglas said he last week he would close 12 of his 13 restaurants; the region had been hit with the first major cases of coronavirus in the U.S. But local closures turned into a nationwide wave, culminating Monday as President Trump in a press conference advised people to avoid restaurants, bars and food courts and any gathering with more than 10 people – a dramatic turn from last week when the CDC was advising no gatherings above 250 people.

Nine of 10 establishments rank as small businesses, without the cushion to ride out a prolonged closure. In Washington D.C., one restaurant group considered flouting the ban announced by the city’s mayor. But when told they must comply, the group relented, according to the Washington Post. “It might bankrupt us, period if government doesn’t do anything to help small business,” said Tom Johnson, the managing partner of the Hill Restaurant Group. “It’s not just us. Everybody is going to have the same problem.”