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Last week, we asked our resident Restaurant Guru Max Trujillo about why some restaurants were still closed—over a year after the governor initially shut them down—only to have almost all of Raleigh’s top eateries now reopen as of last weekend (woohoo!). One we’re still waiting on? Players Retreat. Rumor has it that it’s opening in May… but we’ll see. In case you’re still curious, here’s what our Restaurant Guru had to say about why some restaurants took longer to open than others.
Dear Restaurant Guru,
By all accounts, our state is reopening and anyone who wants to be vaccinated can now get a shot, so why is it that some of Raleigh’s most famous restaurants are still completely closed to in-person dining—especially now with 75% indoor and 100% outdoor occupancy allowances? I think it looks bad for the city—and isn’t conducive to recovery—so I’m curious if there is something that we, the public, don’t know or understand?
Restaurant-Goer & -Lover
Dear Restaurant-Goer & -Lover,
Many of the recent conversations I’ve had with chefs, bartenders and restaurant owners have been hopeful for the future. As the masses are getting vaccinated, there’s a feeling of some sort of normalcy on the horizon. But a looming cloud over the entire industry remains because we still have many obstacles to overcome.
Let’s start with the easy stuff. It’s my belief that, while there are COVID regulations regarding dining, capacities, hours of operations and more, many businesses will stay closed. If you run the numbers—as these businesses did when they made their original business plans—it’s not financially possible to stay afloat with limited occupancy. In general, many places were already struggling to be open before the pandemic.
Say what you will about government assistance, but the fact that many businesses were able to qualify for multiple rounds of PPP funding allowed them to pay their monthly expenses—and even some salaries for their staff—during the shutdown. Many staff members were making more money from unemployment, or at least enough to pay their bills.
Now let’s talk about the not-so-easy stuff. It’s sad, but so many people have permanently left the industry for a myriad of reasons, one of which is safety. The basic nature of the hospitality business is a public profession. Many people are not willing to work in an environment that services hundreds, if not thousands, of people daily.
And there’s also the ugly truth about the industry being riddled with racism, sexism, and social and financial inequities for decades. Learning how to pay people properly is on the frontal lobes of all business owner’s brains. For these reasons, the employee pool has dried up into a desert. And who can blame them? During the quarantine, people figured out other ways to make money after losing their jobs with the snap of Thanos’ fingers.
While many restaurants will continue to stay closed until they can properly open without restriction, my advice to you is to support companies that are open and here for you today. These businesses found a way to make it work, and I applaud them for their efforts. They could really use your support, and, after 2020, you deserve a cold drink and a well-prepared meal.
NC F&B Podcast
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