After Gov. Murphy suspended in-service dining at all New Jersey restaurants and bars Monday night to combat the coronavirus’ community spread, New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association President Marilou Halvorsen estimates that “90 percent of restaurant employees were laid off that night, and those remaining are workers who are providing take-out and delivery.”
It’s arguably a staggering blow to the Garden State, since as of this past Sunday, restaurants here had employed some 330,000 workers via 20,000 establishments. And while the coronavirus’ economic impact for New Jersey restaurants and bars was not available at press-time, the National Restaurant Association projects a $225 billion shortfall across the United States in just the next three months alone.
Halvorsen echoes many Americans’ thoughts: Unlike 9/11 or Superstorm Sandy, restaurants don’t know how long the in-service dining ban will last. She explains, “Delivery and take-out is just helping restaurants keep some of their back, in-house employees – and they are not going to be able to do that for very long [from a financial viability standpoint].”
Referring to federal and state measures designed to ensure the well-being of workers in the wake of the coronavirus’ vast economic reverberations, Halvorsen adds, “I don’t understand: If a restaurant is closed (out of business), how are they going to be able to pay paid sick leave?”
If there is any small silver lining in this crisis, it could be that food is considered an essential service, and that beer, wine and spirits can also be sold by establishments with liquor licenses via take-out and delivery – as long as the latter products are in manufactured bottles that have remained sealed, and the proper insignia (provided by the New Jersey’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control) is affixed.
Halvorsen implores, overall, “The more people adhere to the [social distancing] rules and stay inside and do what they are supposed to do, the sooner we can get on with our normal lives again.”
For now, restaurants and bars here are in a life-and-death race against time, before thousands of them in New Jersey will likely shut forever.
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