NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — 90,000 restaurants across the country have closed due to the effects of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Even though brighter days seemed ahead thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine, owners report the omicron variant has made it worse.
Local favorite Big Al’s Deli in Salemtown is one of many restaurants struggling.
The owner Alphonso Anderson, also known as Big Al, says a good portion of his profits comes from catering and with hardly any in-person events, the restaurant is struggling.
At one point, he had nine months of catering booked up. He said in three days, it was all canceled because of the pandemic.
It was a huge loss for the restaurant and Anderson is not alone.
Because of the omicron variant, 88% of restaurants experienced a decline in customer demand for indoor dining, according to The National Restaurant Association.
Anderson said the impact of going without means you're struggling to keep the doors open and pay your bills.
“They call me mom and pops, and it's tough. Through this pandemic, your bills don't go down. You still have to pay gas electricity, rent, insurance taxes. No one is going to give you a break. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. So, either you pay, or you close up. My heart goes out to a lot of friends in the business that had to close up,” Anderson explained.
Since so many restaurants are struggling, the National Restaurant Association is calling on Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Their survey revealed 74% of restaurants are less profitable now than they were before the pandemic.
This week, the association sent a letter to Congress, highlighting that their survey showed the first round of the funding saved more than 900,000 jobs and helped 96% of recipients stay in business.
The survey also revealed nearly 50% of restaurant operators that did not receive Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants feel it’s unlikely that they will stay in business beyond the pandemic without help.
Therefore, they're calling on Congress to replenish the fund in the upcoming legislative package.
Anderson said any sort of help would be appreciated.
“First of all, give us a tax break," Anderson said. "Taxes will kill you, so how about giving them relief on that? Second of all, if you really want to help, help with the operation costs."
He said every day is a new one, so he’s going to take it one day at a time.
He doesn’t want customers to worry — Anderson said Big Al's Deli is not going anywhere.