Nearly half of New Jersey’s restaurants could shut their doors in the next six months because of the pandemic, either for good, or temporarily, because of a loss in business during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic over the spring, and the second wave this winter, if they do not get monetary help from a federal relief bill.
That’s according to data from the National Restaurant Association in a November survey, and at a Tuesday morning press conference hosted by the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
Between eight and 10% of businesses have already closed, either temporarily, or potentially for good, warned Marilou Halvorsen, the NJRHA’s president and chief executive officer, during the virtually-held Tuesday event. Whether some of those businesses reopen is still up in the air.
Thirty-six percent of New Jersey restaurant owners said they would likely close for good within the next six months without federal aid, according to the NRA nationwide survey, which polled 6,000 operators between Nov. 17 and 30.
Halvorson said that the NJHRA did not have data on how those numbers would be changed if businesses ultimately manage to get federal relief.
A $908 billion COVID-19 federal relief package, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, will likely pass through Washington within the next week. It will include up to $300 billion in forgivable small business loans, known as the Paycheck Protection Program.
Indoor dining was off-limits between mid-March and Labor Day weekend. It was initially slated to resume on July 4 weekend, but Gov. Phil Murphy pulled the plug on that as cases surged across the nation.
Over the summer, outdoor dining was a popular alternative, with towns and cities closing down main streets to make room for restaurants. But restaurant owners are concerned as to what will happen once colder weather renders those options useless.
Restaurants are currently limited to 25% capacity at their indoor areas, and as cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 soar, he will not likely lift restrictions any time soon.
He’s favored a “surgical” approach, like prohibiting indoor dining past 10 p.m. and banning barside seating.
“There is more than anecdotal evidence that as the night wears on, probably for reasons that are obvious, people let their hair down,” Murphy said last month.
Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for the NRA, said that many restaurant owners simply shut their doors during the first wave and ensuing closures.
And they could likely do the same during this second wave if take-out and delivery are not enough to stay afloat – 51% of New Jersey restaurant owners, according to the national survey.
“Even to temporarily close, they’re still paying rent, they’re still paying insurance, they’re paying so many fixed costs, with revenue coming in,” Kennedy said. “It makes it a much riskier proposition as to whether they will be able to reopen once the state or national circumstances make it easier for them to consider reopening.”