Kentucky restaurant owners call on Congress to provide direct federal aid

Kentucky restaurant owners call on Congress to provide direct federal aid
Kentucky restaurateurs say they are losing money having to operate at 25% capacity. (Source: WIS)
Kentucky restaurateurs say they are losing money having to operate at 25% capacity.
Kentucky restaurateurs say they are losing money having to operate at 25% capacity. (Source: WIS)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky’s independent restaurant owners are urging Sen. Mitch McConnell to support the RESTAURANTS Act, a $120 billion fund that would provide direct federal aid to a struggling foodservice industry.

According to the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), 203,000 restaurant workers in Kentucky face uncertain employment prospects amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an IRC media call Friday, Kentucky restaurateurs and advocates outlined the impacts of new restrictions on their businesses. On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear mandated the closure of all bars and reduced indoor dining across the state to 25% capacity.

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Louisville Chef Ed Lee, the owner of 610 Magnolia and Whiskey Dry, voiced his concerns on the call. He said his restaurants had only reopened for a month before Beshear’s rollbacks.

“For my business, we need at least 50% capacity just to pay the bills, just to keep the lights on,” Lee said. “At 25% capacity, we are actually losing money every single day that we open our restaurant. It just doesn’t work for us.”

Lee also explained that he will have to pay back most of the funds he received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“As a restaurant, we are put in a very unfair and precarious situation where we are being asked to shut down and be safe which is what we what to do,” Lee said. “But at the same time we are given no aid, the PPP was a loan, it was not direct aid, it was not a grant.”

In Sen. McConnell’s recently proposed HEALS Act, there is no direct aid included for independent restaurants and bars. According to the IRC, direct federal aid could provide nearly $1.9 billion in economic benefits for Kentucky alone; the nationwide impact could reach $271 billion.

“This [legislation] would basically help every small independent restaurant across America keep their lights on, keep their bills paid, and we would be able to see us through the other side of this with an independent restaurant industry still intact,” Lee said. “I just do not see how any restaurant across the country is going to survive without this bill.”

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