Chefs Launch Petition Urging Government to Help Restaurants and Bars

Nancy Silverton, Patrick O'Connell, Alice Waters, and more chefs have signed. Petition To Save America's Restaurants Chefs
Photo: Evan Sung

As restaurants, bars, and small businesses are forced to close their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the hospitality industry is scrambling to figure out ways to support their staffs and weather the crisis. With mass lay-offs of restaurant industry workers, relief funds have begun to crop up, but the industry is also demanding action and support from the government. This week, chefs and restaurateurs banded together to launch a petition imploring local leaders to come up with a plan.

The “Save America’s Restaurants” petition, which went live on Tuesday, had over 55,000 signatures at the time this article was written, including from Hugh Acheson, Will Guidara, Stephanie Izard, JJ Johnson, Patrick O’Connell, Nancy Silverton, Alice Waters, Preeti Mistry, and more high-profile chefs and restaurateurs from around the country. The petition underscores the critical social and economic importance of restaurants and bars to communities, and without action from local and state governments, they’re in danger of closing for good.

“Just as many individuals live from paycheck to paycheck, so too do restaurants and bars. There’s no nest egg. No reserve fund. No glass to break in case of emergency,” the petition says. “We cannot work from home, and even if we temporarily convert to delivery and carry-out, we lose most of our revenue and the tips our employees depend upon to survive. Without significant help, many if not most of us will vanish, and our communities will be deprived of their gathering places, generosity, and memories old and yet to come.”

Although the petition acknowledges that needs vary from city to city, the following steps have been proposed for governors, mayors, and legislators. First, that emergency employment benefits are given to hourly and salaried workers "who have been laid off or suffered or lost their pay." Second, that payroll taxes are waived; third, that they endorse rent and loan abatement for workers. Fourth, that they work with state liquor authorities to allow restaurants offering takeout and delivery to sell/deliver beer, wine, and cocktails by the bottle. And finally, that restrictions are waived so restaurants can repurpose their spaces as food and beverage markets—providing an alternative to supermarkets, continued pay for staff, and supporting farms and purveyors as well.

“For years, chefs, bartenders and restaurant and bar owners have contributed to our communities, routinely providing food, service and auction items to fundraisers and other charity events, even though we earn precious little ourselves,” the petition continues. “Now, we need help from our communities and government.”

There are also ways for you to help your local businesses without leaving your home. We’ve compiled a list of 12 different steps you can take, including ordering delivery (and how to do it safely), buying gift cards and merchandise, and donating if you’re able to, too. Even small contributions can make a difference as the industry lobbies for government action.

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