This post originally appeared on March 20, 2020 in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.
I come bearing some positive news at the end of a horrific week. I got to speak to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday, and he says he’s confident the $28.6 billion legislators put aside for restaurants in the recent $1.9 trillion stimulus package will be replenished should it run out.
This is major news, if he’s right. The multibillion-dollar carve-out acts as a bailout for independent restaurants and food businesses — a solo operator can claim up to $5 million in losses from 2020 and groups can claim up to $10 million — but there was a very serious fear there wouldn’t be enough to go around. If it does indeed get replenished, as the Paycheck Protection Program did fairly easily, it could be the saving grace for hundreds of thousands of restaurants.
It’s a year late, but it’s something.
My other takeaway from our conversation was that the lobbying efforts for the restaurant community actually worked. The Independent Restaurant Coalition worked tirelessly from its inception to get restaurant owners and workers (and people like you!) on the phone with lawmakers so they could hear first-hand how hard it’s been. And Schumer says that made a huge impact.
I’m hoping that with this funding, plus the increased rollout of vaccines and the turning weather, we’re finally on our way out of this.
— Many Americans are first learning about the spike in violence against Asian Americans this week because of the horrific violence in Atlanta. But the restaurant community (and others, of course) have been grappling with an increase in racism, vandalism, threats, and violence since last February (if not before). It’s gotten to the point that owners of Chinese restaurants in New York are closing early and sending staffers home in groups to keep them safe.
— Health experts on how vaccinated individuals should be thinking about indoor dining.
— Meanwhile, if you want to understand how customers actually behave while dining indoors during a pandemic, here are testimonials from six restaurant workers in Austin.
— More on what it means that Uber has to classify its drivers as “workers” (kind of a middle ground between contractor and employee) in the U.K.
— For some reason, Pizza Hut is getting into NFTs (nonfungible tokens).
— Over half a million Americans have died of COVID-19. Here, we remember four of them who worked in food.
— Chef Tom Douglas’s iconic, 32-year-old restaurant Dahlia is closing for good.
— Houston Astros fans are less than thrilled that Mario Lopez is opening a branch of his ghost-kitchen tortas franchise in their town.
— Save and use the leftover oil in your fish tins.
— Organizers hope to save Manhattan Chinatown’s beloved Jing Fong by buying the lease from the landlord and turning it into a worker-owned co-op.
— Female customers have been pretty offended by this D.C.-area chef. He says he just won’t let customers walk all over him.
— Odes to 52 New York restaurants that closed in the last year.
— Meet Bé Ù, an LA restaurant with a triple bottom line: social justice, economic justice, and environmental sustainability.