Coronavirus Shutdowns to Bring ‘Total Restaurant Apocalypse’ to SF Bay Area

San Francisco closed restaurant (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

The San Francisco Chronicle is predicting a “total restaurant apocalypse” in the San Francisco Bay Area as a result of the region’s new coronavirus shutdown orders, forcing thousands of business to close and lay off employees in the near future.

The San Francisco region will be under stay-at-home orders for several weeks, into the new year. Much of the rest of California is also under stay-at-home orders by Gov. Gavin Newsom, though — for now — those orders will expire by year’s end.

Soleil Ho, the paper’s restaurant critic, warned Monday that while the economic devastation was not “inevitable,” it was almost certain, as restaurants that invested tens of thousands of dollars in outdoor dining would struggle to recoup their costs:

Outdoor dining has been paused in many Bay Area counties, including San Francisco and Alameda counties — a logical health policy step but a punch in the stomach for the restaurant industry. Restaurants have plunked down tens of thousands of dollars on outdoor dining structures and heat lampsand rehired staff to make an impossible situation work.

Restaurant workers will likely be laid off en masse again, just in time for the Dec. 31 expiration of emergency federal unemployment aid, and restaurant owners have told me that they’re wracked with guilt over the possibility of cutting people loose in the midst of a worsening pandemic. Everyone has bills to pay and mouths to feed, and life can only get harder from here. Without meaningful aid to help the country survive this next lockdown, this is bad news for restaurants, but, above all, awful news for people.

Here’s what I see ahead of us, in the likely event that the lockdowns will continue without no-strings-attached direct aid and commercial and residential rent relief: a huge wave of independent operator-owned restaurants closing in January and February, with “hibernating” businesses never waking up; further polarization of the dining scene as middle-end places drop out, with venture capitalist-backed fine dining establishmentsand chain restaurants proliferating; a worsening staffing crisis in the Bay Area, as workers seek more stable jobs in other industries; and undocumented and low-wage workers being driven to financial desperation, with their already-precarious food and housing security reaching even lower depths.

A new report this week by Bloomberg News showed that one in six restaurants has already closed nationwide due to the pandemic shutdowns.

While dining out is often thought of as a luxury, restaurant closures disproportionately hurt minorities, because black and Latino workers are prominent in the sector, and because restaurants are popular small businesses in minority communities.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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