Illinois, plain and simple is a mess right now. It has the worst credit rating, labeled the most Anti-business state to invest in, not a good place to retire and known as being the highest tax state in the country. Other than that things are just fine here in Illinois.
While America Struggles with COVID, Illinois is in a death spiral and COVID seems just to be the nail in the coffin for the Land Of Lincoln. Poor economic conditions, high unemployment rates compounded by a failed unemployment system not serving those in need. That in itself is forcing many to the streets joining the homeless population. Add a crumbling Infrastructure to the ever growing list of devastating issues facing Illinois and things are not looking good for the state.
So with all of that in mind, when you hear people talking about the "plight of restaurants and bars", you might think well that's a frivolous concern. We've seen on FaceBook and other social media outlets comments from many in Illinois. Why should we worry about the independent restaurant industry when we're worried about other things in our lives?
Well here is why. It's because independent restaurants feeds America, feeds Illinois. It's because independent restaurants employ more than 10 million people, many million in Illinois because the industry is one of the biggest industries in the State.
Fear is mounting that these jobs may disappear for good. As of today several thousand restaurants and bars around the state have closed. Think of this. A report released in June by the Illinois Restaurant Association indicated that then nearly 5,100 businesses shut their doors for good. As of today the forecast is that up to 85% of restaurants are expect to close permanently. That percentage is getting higher as each day of the shutdown continues.
This Cantrall, Illinois farm and business just posted on it's FaceBook page today 11/19/2020 the following message.
"Hello everyone! As you may have heard, Rolling Meadows Brewery is shutting down for good. It was a difficult decision, but COVID made it a necessary one. We are proud to have accomplished our mission to grow everything we needed to brew. We are so grateful to the vibrant, supportive community that we were so lucky to be a part of."
As the New York Times reported other industries, deep-pocketed companies are able to keep workers on the payroll even when there's no money coming in. In some cases large restaurant chains, like Portillo's and Chick-Fil-A, who have those same deep pockets, will survive the crisis and shutdowns. However, independent or locally owned restaurants and bars don't have that luxury. The locals, who are the fabricate of every community, part of the history and building the communities don't have shareholders or the ability to bank money for a rainy day when things are good. Here's why.
90% of the money that independent restaurants and bars earn goes straight back out to pay employees, vendors and rent. In other words, your favorite restaurant and bar is primarily in business of giving a whole lot people a paycheck.
In the past few weeks, one of us was forced to lay off 800 workers. Another had to let 1,500 people go. A third laid off 2,000 people, including office staff. Some establishments still offer takeout and delivery, and selling gift cards online, but that's barely enough to keep anyone employed, given the costs of rent, insurance, taxes and fees for sit down restaurants. The independents economic model requires people in seats. And that's not even counting the hundreds of millions of workers up and down the supply chain, from farmers and packers and laundries to importers and accountants, from entertainers and bands to lawn care and building maintenance and other trades, oh yes, and unions. All who depend on restaurants for their living.
One Illinois Farmer for example is a good example of what we are talking about. His farm supplies 40 to 50 restaurants around Illinois, "wholesale to restaurants make up about 70 percent of our total sales," he said. Since the recent shutdown orders his restaurant sales have "dropped to zero." Illinois Dairy farmers say the same thing. Bars and mom and pop coffee shops closed are not ordering cream for drinks. Devastating the Dairy industry.
So, as restaurants and bars go, so go our communities. If all of these people suddenly don't have money to spend on our main streets, everyone will feel it. This is why you should care, why everyone should care.
As owners and operators we take our responsibility to keep people working very seriously. But now we need help. We have fallen victim to COVID and leaders we fear have politized COVID. Forcing shutdown on an industry who really should be part of the solution and not vilified as the problem when all statistics show that the establishments are safer than having dinner at home. To date accurate DATA has not been shared showing the reason to shut down restaurants and bars. Lists have be released but solid DATA has not and the administration refuses time and time again to release it. Why? It doesn't fit the narrative.
A large majority of our colleagues, from dishwashers to porters to prep, bartenders and line cooks, have spent their lives in the restaurant and bar business. They have nowhere else to go.
WE CAN'T LET THEM DOWN.
So let's answer that question we asked in the begging of this. Will we have and Illinois without restaurants and bars? The answer is...
We Are Essential!
Illinois Restaurant Association
Illinois Policy Institute
New York Times
Illinois License Beverage Association
Illinois Department of Employment Security
Illinois Farmers and Dairy Farmers