Restaurant Workers Prepare for Reopenings

Furloughed restaurant employees are eager to get back to work as restrictions are lifted state-by-state. In Georgia, Mississippi, and the Dakotas, some have already returned. Alabama, Tennessee, Iowa, Montana, and Colorado allowed restaurants to reopen this week. In South Carolina and Texas, some restaurants are opening their doors tomorrow morning. Restaurants in Utah, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Missouri, Nebraska, and most Florida counties can reopen Monday.

Workers are excited, but also concerned about getting sick. “Afraid to go back to work because of fear of getting infected,” says one worker. “I don’t think we have a choice,” says a server in Atlanta, who has no other employment options like many residents. “I work in Texas & I’m terrified to return to working in restaurants, touching dishes that have had direct contact w/ possibly asymptomatic COVID19 hands, mouths, saliva etc.” tweeted another server. 

As of today, the National Restaurant Association estimates that restaurants have lost over $80 billion in revenue and that seven million restaurant industry workers have lost their jobs. According to U.S. jobless claims data released this morning, a total 30 million people have applied for unemployment aid nationwide within the past six weeks, including an additional 3.8 million just last week. Bloomberg estimates the current national unemployment rate to exceed 22%.

Restaurants in shopping malls are looking forward to reopening as well, and some will begin serving food this weekend. Simon Property Group will have 49 malls open by this weekend across 10 states. As an incentive for patrons to return, Simon is offering CDC-approved masks, hand sanitizing packets, and infrared thermometer temperature testing.

Some consumers are excited to return. “Can’t wait for restaurants to open back up!” says one customer. “I miss GOING OUT to eat,” says another who is tired of eating at home. Many patrons are looking forward to tomorrow’s reopenings, “I am genuinely excited to be able to sit outside a restaurant tomorrow.”

One Austin resident points out the concerns of many diners, “We are not ready and 25% capacity isn’t enough for restaurants to make money. Not to mention they are putting their staff at risk,” describing the difficult realities. “I will never return to any restaurant that opens its doors tomorrow.” Some small municipalities like Middleburg are even subsidizing local restaurants directly.

For many restaurant workers, this weekend will mark the painful peak of financial duress. Monthly rent payments are due on May 1st. National initiatives to suspend May’s rent payment are ramping up their final efforts under various banners: #CancelRent, Our Homes Our Health, Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, and United for a New Economy.

President Trump said yesterday that he encourages reopenings “as soon as possible,” mentioning, “We can’t have somebody with half a restaurant. That’s not going to pay the rent.” The President also wants to see “packed” sports stadiums.

Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

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