At various points through the coronavirus crisis, New Orleans restaurants have figured out the shift to takeout only, how to manage limited occupancy, how to operate one day at a time. Now, the question for many is simply how much longer they can hold on.
Four months into the fight and restaurants are at a crossroads, able to remain open but facing worse odds than when the crisis first began. Reserves of cash and first-round emergency government relief have been drained. The long slog and whipsaw of changing rules has sapped morale too.
Restaurants nationwide are in trouble. In New Orleans the catastrophe is threatening a sector ingrained as part of the city’s identity, from bucket list dining destinations to neighborhood po-boy shops.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association projects one in four restaurants statewide could close permanently. For the New Orleans area that forecast shoots to 40% to 50% closing, due to the city’s heavy reliance on travel and events.
Some local restaurants have already closed. Many of these say the closing is temporary, that they’ll lay low until things improve. It’s a survival tactic. Others though, are gone for good, and there’s reason to fear the toll will soon mount.
There’s the prospect of some new help from the top. Congress is debating the next round of stimulus funding, and that could including measures to help restaurants hold on.
But any funding might not even matter if cases keep surging back. That’s what’s lengthening this ordeal, that’s why restaurants that mustered the will and the funds to make it through the first few months are now wondering if they can hang on.
That’s why the plea for people to use face masks and honor the social pact of social distancing measures goes on.
One day at a time is a pretty rough way to run a restaurant. But if we commit to helping quell the spread, each of us, that’s at least something we can all do to help things improve day after day.