Your favorite restaurant is on the brink of bankruptcy. If we don’t make the right move with our reopening plan, many restaurants will vanish.
Restaurants have lost more jobs, closed more locations and lost more revenue than any other industry in New Mexico. There is no question that restaurants have been devastated by the recent shutdown of the economy. That’s not to say restaurants are not sympathetic to the cause.
Restaurant owners and operators in New Mexico understood that policymakers had to take into account the scientific realities of COVID-19 and protect people from the virus. Now those same policymakers will need to provide a strategy that combines the protection of New Mexicans with the eventual resumption of their personal, social and economic activities.
As much as your favorite restaurant wants to reopen and begin serving customers again, they have many additional considerations in this new reality. They are all concerned with customer and employee safety in the pandemic. They also have financial concerns, such as having sufficient savings to reemerge strong enough to reopen and continue serving in these uncertain times.
Even the most solvent restaurants cannot survive the current restrictions. Operating a restaurant at 50 percent or less occupancy is not a reality any business can maintain for an extended period.
We have heard the governor’s economic recovery council is considering how to safely open restaurants to protect customers and employees, and of course, we welcome those measures because it will be impossible for restaurants to open and then be shut down again without suffering even more permanent closures.
Many restaurant owners have received a Payroll Protection Program loan, but their clock is ticking; they have two months to spend that money rehiring their employees or they have to pay the loan back beginning in November. Although they were hoping for a May 1 reopening, considering the health risks and how much work has to get done first, a May 15 opening is more responsible.
An official announcement by the governor sooner rather than later would give them time to get their businesses open and get a head start by using the relief money to get back on their feet.
If we open on May 15, restaurants will have this loan to help with payroll for the first month, but they still have to pay for reopening inventory as well as any previous debt to vendors they may have incurred before having to close.
Every restaurateur I’ve talked to has given money or food to furloughed employees who had not received their unemployment checks and were going to lose their cars or houses unless they had help with the payment.
Restaurants operate with a very slim (if any) profit margin. They have very little cash reserves to begin and now they have less. The longer we wait to open, the less likely restaurants will have the ability to buy the supplies and food needed to operate properly. The potential to get restaurants open narrows every day we wait.
We understand doing this properly is going to require not just the governor’s lifting of the stay-at-home order, but it will most assuredly depend on the industry doing the right thing and gaining customer confidence upon their return to our beloved industry.
If restaurants are going to have a fighting chance of survival, the governor at a minimum needs to give us an opening day sooner rather than later.