Press Release

Senator Gillibrand, Restaurateurs David Chang And Tom Colicchio Call For Bipartisan Legislation To Help Independent Restaurants Survive Economic Crisis

Oct 20, 2020

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, David Chang, chef and founder of Momofuku, and Tom Colicchio, owner of Crafted Hospitality and founding member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, urged the Senate to pass the bipartisan Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020. The RESTAURANTS Act would create a $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund to address the unique long-term challenges of food service and drinking establishments and ensure they can maintain operations, pay workers, and keep their doors open. It would provide economic relief to independent restaurants navigating unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic.

“Small businesses like restaurants are the cornerstones of our economy and communities. But even before the pandemic they operated on tight margins, so when this crisis hit one in six restaurants had to close their doors for good. It’s clear that as the unique challenges restaurants face continue, more will close and more New Yorkers will be out of work without federal relief,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The RESTAURANTS Act will address the urgent needs of the industry by providing a lifeline for independent restaurants to maintain operations and pay their employees. The next relief package must support the food service industry and I will keep fighting to pass real bipartisan relief in the Senate.”  

“Independent restaurants are facing an extinction-level event. Restaurants will soon disappear by the thousands, and all of the businesses and individuals that depend on them will be left helpless. If the crisis of 2008 threatened the top of the economic pyramid, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the ground floor.” – David Chang, Chef and Founder of Momofuku

“For seven months, most neighborhood restaurants haven’t been able to turn a profit due to no fault of their own. Looking ahead towards winter, outdoor dining will be nearly impossible and neighborhood restaurants will be forced to decide if they can afford to stay open and continue to employ over 11 million people. Over 40 Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have cosponsored the RESTAURANTS Act because it’s commonsense policy. We cannot wait until after the election or until January to get this done.”  – Tom Colicchio, Owner of Crafted Hospitality and Founding Member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition

Across the country, restaurants have been devastated by stay at home orders and operating restrictions that have slashed revenue and operations. Nearly 90% of New York City bar and restaurant owners couldn’t pay their rent in August and many may have to shut their doors permanently when they can no longer rely on revenue from outdoor dining. The recent uptick in coronavirus cases in parts of the state also threatens to impose restrictions that further limit the scale of operations, leaving millions of New Yorkers who work in food service at risk of permanent job loss. The restaurant industry is New York’s second largest employer and employs nearly 1 in 10 New Yorkers. Those who work in the industry are overwhelmingly immigrants, people of color, and those who were formerly incarcerated – communities which have been hit hardest by the pandemic. More than 11 million independent restaurant employees nationwide are at risk of losing their jobs. 

The RESTAURANTS Act will help keep workers employed by providing a lifeline to small restaurants and bars that are struggling to keep their doors open. The $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund would provide structured relief to restaurants, food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, saloons, inns, taverns, bars, lounges, and similar places of business that are part of a group of restaurants of 20 or less. The flexible grants would be awarded based on the difference in revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020. They could be used to cover operating expenses including payroll, rent and mortgage, utilities, and coronavirus related expenses like PPE, cleaning supplies, construction of outdoor seating, and more. Additionally, $60 million of the grant fund will be appropriated for resources and outreach to traditionally marginalized and underrepresented communities — with a focus on women, minority-owned, and veteran operated restaurants.

As a native New Yorker, Senator Gillibrand understands firsthand the importance of restaurants and small businesses in communities and New York’s economy. Gillibrand has consistently fought to support small businesses owners who have borne the brunt of the economic crisis. Gillibrand has visited communities throughout the state to call for the bipartisan RESTART Act to support small- and mid-sized businesses, including restaurants and live event venues, that have lost substantial revenue and need support that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been unable to adequately provide. She has also called for legislation to extend the Small Business Debt Relief Program that has delivered relief to 320,000 small businesses heavily concentrated in the service industries.  

A summary of the legislation can be found here