Group pushing Congress to provide federal dollars to restaurants and small businesses across Louisiana

Group pushing Congress to provide federal dollars to restaurants and small businesses across Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Folks across Louisiana in the service industry, like people who work in restaurants, bars, you name it, are in need of a little help.

The pressure is on for lawmakers in D.C., they have until Christmas Day to work something out before unemployment benefits run out.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association says some local businesses may not be able to hold on for much longer without help on the federal level.

Especially since they won’t have as many customers coming in for the holidays, due to capacity limits.

December is usually the busiest time of the year for restaurants like Kalurah Street Grill.

Kalurah Street Grill
Kalurah Street Grill (Source: WAFB)

“The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when the governor sent us back to 50%, that was a crushing blow, for our industry, crushing,” said Brad Watts, owner of Kalurah Street Grill, Cecilia Creole Bistro, and The River Room.

His restaurants places tried to survive off of curbside pickup when the pandemic started back in March, but it just wasn’t working out.

“Thinking that we’re going to be closed for 30 to 60 days. And because of the numbers increasing and because of the pandemic, it just kept getting pushed back further and further,” said Wats.

SBA Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program only lasted around 8 to 10 weeks.

Forcing his restaurants to shut down for 6 months, and they did not reopen until after Labor Day.

“And we’re in month 9 of the pandemic, so that money was spent a long time ago,” said Watts.

“When we look at the fact that 1 in 6 restaurants are closed now, we predicted through this whole time. That we could lose 30 to 40% of our restaurants statewide,” said Stan Harris, President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association is urging Congress to come up with some relief for folks in the service industry.

“One, getting another round of payroll protection money, it looks like that’s going to be part of this. And number 2, was to be sure that in statute, we defined that the use of this, and the forgiveness of that debt, would be deductible for tax purposes,” said Harris.

As for what’s happening in Washington, D.C. with an economic relief package.

“Right now, negotiations are hovering around, somewhere around 300 to 325 billion dollars in assistance to small businesses. That would be approximately 1/3 the total value of the package. And let’s be clear Lester, when we’re talking about assistance to small businesses, it’s so they can continue paying payroll,” said Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves (R).

But the future is a little uncertain for some in the service industry.

“I think the scary part for all of us is, people are telling us to change our business models and prepare for this future, but the future is so uncertain. We don’t even know how to adapt to it right now,” said Watts.

According to the National Restaurant Association, approximately 17% of restaurants across the country, that’s more than 110,000 establishments, have completely closed because of the pandemic.

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