Some 100,000 restaurants have permanently closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and the unemployment rate for restaurant workers sits at 16.4%, more than twice the national average.
As the weather turns cold, the picture is going to get even more bleak. The restaurants that have been able to struggle through by relying on outdoor seating will be less able to keep up with their expenses as patios and sidewalks become inhospitable.
Inside dining, even in limited capacities, will pose a risk in areas where the virus is surging, as COVID-19 spreads most easily indoors, especially in places with poor ventilation. Most people take off their masks to dine or drink, and alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions, making them more likely to get close and disregard distancing advice.
In other words, all of the things we love about our favorite bar or restaurant ― the close quarters, the drinking, the music so loud you have to shout ― are what also makes them a recipe for virus transmission. And there’s a real risk many of your favorites will never come back.
One way to save bars and lives would be for the government to pay bars and restaurants to stay closed, and pay their workers to stay home, until the coronavirus pandemic is under control. But doing so is probably too radical for Congress.
That doesn’t mean lawmakers aren’t willing to throw money at the industry. In fact, there’s bipartisan support for setting aside $120 billion for restaurants, which is a pretty large amount for an industry-specific piece of legislation. The proposal doesn’t tell bars to close, but it could tide them over in the likely event that outbreaks force mayors and governors to reinstate shutdowns, as Chicago’s mayor did this week.
Democrats tucked the restaurant revitalization fund, as it’s called, into the latest version of their $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. But Republicans and the Trump administration have been unwilling to go along...