Business owners and workers in the restaurant industry rallied in New York City on Tuesday to protest restrictions and inaction from government officials as tens of thousands of establishments across the country have shut their doors over the course of the year due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
Indoor dining in New York City restaurants remains shuttered following what Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called unstable hospitalization rates in the region. Outdoor dining — one of the final options for these restaurants, which are now largely restricted to takeout and delivery — will also shut down this week due to a winter snowstorm.
Activists gathered in the city on Tuesday to protest the mandatory shutdowns and demand additional access to PPP funding as well as the trust of local governments:
Restaurant workers in NYC: pic.twitter.com/Uot97MOlWC
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) December 15, 2020
“We are not the problem. We deserve to work,” one speaker said, adding that they’ve been following state guidelines throughout the pandemic.
A Harlem restaurant owner also spoke, explaining that she typically employs 35-45 local residents depending on the season. Since March, her team has been reduced by half, and she was forced to close one of her locations. What is worse, she added, is the fact that business owners are forced to determine who has to potentially fall through the cracks due to a lack of government assistance. Owners have to consider if the employee is the main breadwinner in their household or if they have other options for employment and make decisions based on those factors. She said she has seen staffers give up their job to help others, while other business owners have reached out in hopes that she could hire their staff when they had to close their doors.
The industry leaders emphasized that they are campaigning for options to operate.
Eric Adams, a former New York state senator, said the situation is “choking the life out of everyday people in the city.”
“This city is killing us,” another speaker said.
Protesters plan to march to the governor’s office following the speeches.
Last week, Cuomo announced that indoor dining in NYC would shut down, once again, effective Monday. Prior to that, restrictions capped indoor dining to 25 percent capacity:
Indoor dining will close in New York City starting Monday.
Hospitalizations have not stabilized, and with a rising infection rate and NYC’s density, this means that indoor dining is too high of a risk.
Takeout, delivery and outdoor dining will continue.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) December 11, 2020
Less than two percent of cases of the Wuhan virus have been traced to restaurants:
Open. Up. https://t.co/EIVsM8t5Nd
— Karol Markowicz (@karol) December 11, 2020
#EconWatch: With restaurants and bars causing less than 2% of #COVID transmission, @NYGovCuomo has thoughtlessly ordered a ban on indoor dining at NYC restaurants. Result = massive economic costs and hardship. pic.twitter.com/sy21B384IF
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) December 14, 2020
According to the National Restaurant Association, 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently nationwide in 2020.