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Prominent chefs call on Congress to expand aid, say more is needed for restaurants to survive

A closed sign hangs in the window of Kismet on March 20. The Los Feliz restaurant is one of many businesses that have seen their future jeopardized due to COVID-19-mandated closures.
A closed sign hangs in the window of Kismet on March 20. The Los Feliz restaurant is one of many businesses that have seen their future jeopardized due to COVID-19-mandated closures.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

A national advocacy group that represents more than 5,000 restaurant owners and chefs is calling for Congress to provide more financial relief amid the coronavirus pandemic for the independent restaurant industry and the 11 million people it employs.

“It’s simple: Without help, many of your favorite restaurants are not going to be there once this crisis is over,” said Tom Colicchio, the chef-owner behind Crafted Hospitality and one of the founding members of the Independent Restaurant Coalition.

“Not only the restaurants owned by well-known chefs, but the small mom and pops as well.”

On Monday, the coalition sent a letter to Congress and held a conference call led by Colicchio and fellow chef-restaurateurs Naomi Pomeroy and Kwame Onwuachi.

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During the call, the group expressed “significant issues” with the CARES Act signed into law on March 29 and advocated for a more comprehensive short-term plan as well as measures designed to help restaurants reopen and remain open in the long term.

Among the actions requested by the coalition were changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that would extend loan terms to three months after restaurants can fully reopen and increase the amount of time owners have to repay loans; a $100-billion “restaurant stabilization fund” to provide upfront capital for reopenings; tax rebates that incentivize employment; and ensuring business interruption insurance covers COVID-19-related losses.

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The push comes in wake of reports that more than 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last several weeks. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that two-thirds of jobs lost in March came from hospitality; more than half were in food and beverage.

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“Once it’s time to reopen, there will be huge obstacles ahead,” Onwuachi said. “Without proper action, this will fundamentally alter our communities. If kitchens are the heartbeat of the home, restaurants are the heartbeat of the nation.”

The coalition’s leadership team includes José Andrés, Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin, Caroline Styne and Will Guidara.

The full letter to Congress can be found here.


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