The devastation caused by the pandemic in the restaurant industry, especially here in New York, is indescribable. And known to everyone. We are all affected by it in one way or another.
What is inexplicable, however, is that few tears have been shed for the destruction that this industry has suffered. Most of the interest and state aid has been focused on the airlines, which employ only a fraction of the number of employees in restaurants, hotels, and the tourism sector in general.
Politicians must think that restaurants have nine lives because of the dedication of the owners and staff.
Again, they may think that it is easy for a restaurant in a neighborhood, in a city like this, to spring up again, and as a result, they feel that they do not need to help.
But even if that were the case, their analysis would still be wrong.
Here are some facts:
According to The Atlantic magazine, the catering industry "generates $900 billion a year and employs 15 million people."
These numbers, of course, are from before the Coronavirus.
A study by New York City’s Comptroller’s Office estimates that half of the 24,000 restaurants that opened at the beginning of 2020 will close in 2021. Half!
In general, people cannot adequately appreciate the impact of restaurants on the local economy: from rent to the property owner, to payments to food/beverage suppliers, tablecloth cleaners, appliance technicians, as well as, employees’ salaries, taxes, etc.
Restaurants also contribute to a neighborhood’s spirit and cultural life.
Historically, for us Greeks, restaurants – big and small – have also been a passport to a better economic life. Of course, there was always a risk restaurant owners took when investing money – some of which was borrowed – to fund their restaurants. They also invested in another way – literally endless hours of work, often 7 days a week.
But by taking these calculated risks and chances, they were able to buy houses, educate their children, build churches and schools, support societies and clubs, the Community’s media, as well as important projects in their particular homelands all over Greece.
And they were able to retire with some comfort.
So for us, the disaster that is happening in this industry, is a personal matter.
It concerns us directly.
Hopefully, the new aid package signed by President Trump a couple of nights ago – finally – will contain generous aid to this sector in order to get these people back on their feet – owners and employees. Until this Coronavirus nightmare is over.