Restaurant industry scrambles for solutions as Trump administration waffles on stimulus talks - The Washington Post

Restaurant industry scrambles for solutions as Trump administration waffles on stimulus talks - The Washington Post


Restaurant industry scrambles for solutions as Trump administration waffles on stimulus talks - The Washington Post

Posted: 07 Oct 2020 08:00 AM PDT

The hospitality industry, in particular, has been lobbying hard to pass the $2.2 trillion Heroes Act, which includes a revitalization fund that would provide $120 billion to help independent restaurants and bars with fewer than 20 locations. Members of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, an industry trade group, recently said 85 percent of their peers could close by the end of the year without federal relief.

The IRC sent out a statement following Trump's decision to halt stimulus negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) until after the election on Nov. 3.

"If Congress and the president walk away from negotiations, even more of our neighborhood restaurants will go out of business," the organization wrote. "Restaurant employment decreased in nine states in the last available report, and this industry remains the largest contributor to national unemployment. We cannot afford five or six more weeks of decreased revenue, more debt, and uncertainty about colder weather."

Chefs and restaurateurs reacted with anger, frustration and resignation to the stalled talks. The timing couldn't be worse for many operators, particularly those in colder climates, where patios are beginning to close and patrons must decide whether they feel safe dining indoors. The evidence suggests it may not be safe.

"People are getting screwed over because you have a group of people who are running our country who care more about power than they care about people," said Tom Colicchio, the IRC co-founder and the man behind Crafted Hospitality, in an interview with The Washington Post.

"At this point, I'm losing money. Staying open makes no sense," Colicchio continued during a break in "Top Chef" filming in Portland, Ore. "Maybe for the next month we can hang in there and break even. But once it gets too cold and everybody goes back inside and we're at 25 percent inside — and, quite frankly, looking at the [infection] numbers in New York go up — there's going to be a decision pretty soon to shut everything down again."

"What are we going to do then?" he added. Colicchio said money from the revitalization fund would have supported his operations for six months, perhaps long enough to see a vaccine hit the market. He and his peers, Colicchio said, had been essentially banking on the stimulus cash.

"I'm telling people that we owe money to, like, 'Hey, you know what? This is going through. We think we're going to get something. Just hang in there. We'll take care of you as soon as we get money.' I mean, this is going to really hurt."

David Chang, the chef and multimedia star, first lashed out with an expletive on Twitter, then composed himself for a follow-up comment: "Politics over doing what's right...incredibly wrong."

Pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, owner of the Buttercream Bakeshop in Washington, D.C., went through a cycle of emotions in one short tweet. "Anger followed by panic followed by diving deeper into pivot (I hate that word) ideas," she wrote.

Chef, restaurateur and TV personality Andrew Zimmern, who has predicted an "extinction event" for restaurants without federal aid, was even more pointed in his remarks.

"This isn't about you and your ego, your selfish desires, your trophy case... This is about the ECONOMY OF THE UNITED STATES and ALL her citizens!" Zimmern tweeted. "More sickening, it's hostage taking, it's the tool of the bully autocrat."

Camilla Marcus, a founding member of the IRC, recently had to shut down West-bourne, her socially conscious cafe in New York's Soho neighborhood. But she has not lost her faith.

"Restaurants cannot give up hope," she wrote in an email statement to The Post. "It's hard to imagine that our government turns a blind eye and refuses to help independent restaurants when so many are teetering on the verge of extinction. I was forced to close mine because there was no plan of assistance. But today a plan is within reach. The House passed our restaurant revitalization fund proposal, which also has the support of over 41 Senators from both parties. This is not political; this is about people."

Marcus, who holds a business degree from the Wharton School, said the IRC will continue to fight for the revitalization fund so other restaurants won't have to follow in the path of West-bourne.

"In a short amount of time, there will be no restaurant industry," Tom Brown, a veteran bar owner in Washington, D.C., wrote in a Facebook comment. "Best bet? Make a business plan in the short term, look for cheap rents [in the] summer of 2021 and build out winter 2021/2022 for a spring 2022 opening. If there are investors left to court, that is."

With a restaurant industry that has shed millions of jobs since the pandemic started, and is expected to lose $240 billion this year, some never expected the government to bail them out. "I gave up on the idea that anyone was coming to save us as an industry back in April," Ian Boden, chef and owner of the Shack in Staunton, Va., wrote on Facebook. "We like always are on our own."

Bobby Stuckey, co-founder of the Frasca Hospitality Group with restaurants in Denver and Boulder, Colo., sent an email statement to The Post, saying, "I have received countless texts from people in the industry who are crushed by this news. The uncertainty is killer for many businesses who have been accumulating tons of debt for months. With colder temperatures making outdoor dining impossible, no vaccine in sight and rising positivity rates in many states, many restaurant owners have no choice but to close."

It's hard for restaurateurs to know exactly where the Trump administration stands on a stimulus package, particularly after the president reversed course again late Tuesday in a string of tweets, saying he was ready to sign at least a partial stimulus package for Americans and small business. Trump previously said that "immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business," but he is also trailing in the polls. Many speculated that, should Trump lose, an economic stimulus package may not arrive until after Joe Biden is inaugurated in January,

"There's been no indication right now whether or not in a lame duck session, he would pass" a relief bill, said Colicchio. "You would think that the Republicans, even post-election, would want to have some sort of win, and they can say they pushed this through. But who knows?"

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who introduced the original Restaurants Act, said he's still working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get legislation passed in the House and Senate.

"Despite the tweets, restaurant relief is still very much in play as the administration tries to make sense of Trump's incoherent positions," the Congressman said in an email to The Post. "He's already walked back some of his comments after massive blowback. I think we'll see the same with restaurant relief given the broad bipartisan support and urgent need in the industry."

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Q&As: Five run to be next Jerome Township trustees - Midland Daily News

Posted: 07 Oct 2020 10:43 AM PDT

The race for the four trustee positions in Jerome Township is contested between Gil Bernier, R-Sanford; Mark Green, D-Sanford; Kevin Nilles, D-Jerome Township; Lee Fellows, D-Sanford; Steve Rice, R-Sanford; and Sarah Jo Rowley, with no party affiliation.

The following candidates in that race returned election Q&As. They will be featured in Saturday's Midland Daily News, which also will include the League of Women Voters annual voter's guide.

Gil Bernier, 65, of Sanford, is retired.

1. What would you say are the main jobs and duties of this position?

Trustees vote on all township issues and are responsible for the fiduciary health of the township.

2. If elected to this role, how would you accomplish the above duties?

I will continue to be involved in the township budget and financial oversight of Jerome Township and will consider and vote on all issues that come before the board.

3. What, if any, changes would you make in this position?

I would make no changes to this position. The Jerome Township board members work very well together and are sharply focused on the well-being of Jerome Township and its residents.

4. What challenges do you anticipate you will encounter in this role, if elected?

Some aspects of Jerome governmental matters have been affected by the recent flooding and will require our knowledge of how to change according to the impact. As part of the current board, we are uniquely positioned to handle all township services and financial needs in light of these challenges.

Mark Green, 72, of Sanford, is retired.

1. What would you say are the main jobs and duties of a Jerome Township trustee?

As a trustee for the township, my primary duty is to make sure the township board is making wise and cost effective decisions on how we spend the township citizens' tax dollars. While everyone on the township board votes on how we spend tax dollars, it is the main function of each trustee to make sure all spending the township board does will do the most good for the most citizens of the township. With the duty to make sure money is well spent comes the obligation of asking serious questions about any of the business that comes before the township board, to get the most facts which in turn will allow us to make the best decision possible for the township as a whole.

2. As a Jerome Township trustee, how would you accomplish the above duties?

There are several things a trustee can do to make sure the above duties are accomplished. One is to make sure he/she has as many facts as possible about the questions being decided by the board. The only way to make a responsible decision is to have as much information as possible and the trustee's job is to ask those questions. Two is to do your own research into the question. To do that, the trustee needs to have the agenda items with enough time for research before the issue is decided. The third thing a trustee can do to fulfill his/her duties is to ask the citizens of the township how they feel about the issue coming before the board. Only by input from those who will be affected by the board's action can you make the best decisions.

3. What, if any, changes would you make as a Jerome Township trustee?

I think there are some changes in the township government that could be made to help it function better. The most significant change the township could make would be to increase the amount of citizen input the township gets. More people in the township would offer ideas if they knew what issues were going to be discussed at the board meetings. Not everyone will be interested in all of the topics being discussed, but if everyone knew the agenda prior to the meeting, they could choose to come to a meeting that is of interest to them.

The township does have a website that gives the members of the community information. However, most of that information is a history of previous meetings. We could develop an email list of the township citizens who wanted to be emailed an agenda two weeks before the each meeting. There are often changes to the agenda, so they could receive an updated agenda a few days prior to the meeting. That would allow those who have an interest in the township government to plan to attend a meeting. One other change I would like at least considered is to increase input and participation by the young people of our community. The board could offer to have a member or members of the board visit the social studies, political science, and economics class at the high school to discuss what local government does and how important it is that they become involved. If there was an interest, the board could help facilitate a youth group with interest in local, state, and maybe national questions.

4. What challenges do you anticipate Jerome Township trustees will encounter?

The questions trustees will be facing in the near future have changed with the events of the last three or four months. The township is dependent, to some degree, on state contributions. With the state lockdown and increasing unemployment, state grants to local governments will be considerably lower than in the past. The township board will need to continually reassess the budget for the next year and following years.

The two dam failures in the area have left many people with no homes, damaged homes, and future expenses for repairs. The Village of Sanford's business district no longer exists. Income from visitor recreation is gone. Sales and tax revenue in the area will be dramatically decreased. Many of the homes in the area, even if they suffered no, or minimal damage, were occupied by people who wanted to be near or on the water, now the desirable waterfront property is gone. We will need to wait and see if there is any negative change in the property value of those homes.

If tax value is lowered, the township will have fewer funds with which to fulfill its duties. The township has approved fixing of many local roads. A large amount of money has been approved for those improvements. We may very well need to reassess and change the amount that has been allocated for those improvements. Another issue is the effect that artificial intelligence will have on how the board and township does business and what steps will be needed to protect our information. The board will also need to decide if/ how education will be affected by the changes that have come about.

If the remote instruction the school has undertaken needs to be extended to next year, the township will need to address the issue of affordable internet being available to all township homes with students. We cannot allow some students to be at an educational disadvantage because they have no internet access. There will be other issues, many of them unknown, that come up as the years proceed. Looking to the future of Jerome Township, there will be many new challenges with the rebuilding of the community. It would my honor to continue to serve as a trustee on the Jerome Township Board as we, as a community, work through these challenges together. Please be well and stay safe as we rebuild our community. I thank you very much for reading my thoughts concerning the issues before us.

Steve Rice, 60, of Sanford, is a Hitachi Vantara - Master Performance Consultant (or, in his own words, a 'computer nerd).

1. What would you say are the main jobs and duties of a Jerome Township trustee?

A township trustee should help manage the limited resources of the township as diligently as possible, while attempting to plan and help create the opportunity for growth in the township. I say this because all entities (people, businesses, townships, governments) are either growing or declining. We need to allow for growth or expect decline. I am for growth so that my grandchildren will have opportunities in the township.

2. As a Jerome Township trustee, how would you accomplish the above duties?

Being a part of the Jerome Township Trust, I would be able to look at and handle bigger concerns and issues that people in my community have. Before losing the dam, I wanted to be able to keep our community thriving, making sure that businesses are able to grow and succeed. Given that the lake is a vital part of our community's infrastructure, we now have to balance the funding available from all sources (state and federal governments as well as private sources) to not only rebuild the lake but rebuild or strengthen existing roads and bridges and enable businesses to grow.

3. What, if any, changes would you make as a Jerome Township trustee?

My goal as a township trustee is to make sure the township survives the dam failure. I want to see the township grow and flourish. Any changes that I would try to make would be meant to keep my community here and thriving. I raised my daughter in this town. I want to see her raise her family in this town, being able to go to the beach, and having the wonderful community we've enjoyed. I knew that I lived in a great township, but after everything happened, how everyone was out helping, and seeing everyone come together was something special.

4. What challenges do you anticipate Jerome Township trustees will encounter?

The largest challenge is for economic stability and to achieve that we need to rebuild the dam while making it a safer dam. Most of the businesses (restaurants, hardware, auto parts, bank, etc.) in the area are small local business that had already been stressed by COVID-19. Most of the downtown businesses in Sanford have been affected by the dam flood. Without the summer population from the lakes, we will most likely lose many of the downtown businesses in Sanford.

Properties around the lake have probably lost 50% of their paper value or tax value without the lake. Anyone who needs to refinance could be forced to walk away from their "lake" properties, which would drive down the values of other homes, let alone the houses that will be abandoned from damage by the flood. Without a safe dam, without a lake, Jerome Township, Sanford, and the Sanford school systems will suffer a great economic loss. This is something that I do not want to see, I want to be able to keep the great township that I live in here.

Sarah Jo Rowley, 38, of Sanford, is employed in HR Technology, Dow.

1. What would you say are the main jobs and duties of a Jerome Township trustee?

The trustee's primary responsibility is to vote on all issues reviewed by the township board. Additionally, the township trustee has an obligation to ensure that the township is utilizing its resources, both financial and natural, with the best interest of residents in mind. I also believe that township trustees have a duty to act with accountability, integrity and be forward-thinking on behalf of the community they represent. Passion is needed in every aspect of this position.

2. As a Jerome Township trustee, how would you accomplish the above duties?

Jerome Township has an existing master plan and I would like to assist in helping to socialize this plan in a relatable context. This helps to ensure we are true to the core values established as well as full utilization of both the community and natural resources. Acting with integrity means that personal agendas do not get in the way of getting business done for the greater good. Lastly, looking to the future with recovery and sustainability in mind, every dollar is important. No one could go without saying that the circumstances we face as a community are unprecedented; I think it's important to recognize that this means unplanned economic hurdles will require additional consideration as it relates to township operations. We have huge challenges ahead of us. I believe with hard work and persistence we can rise to these challenges.

3. What, if any, changes would you make as a Jerome Township trustee?

The dam failures and flooding continue to have a significant impact on what issues the township board will face in the coming years. As a community, we are not living under circumstances that allow us to conduct life under the "business as usual" approach. In Jerome Township, the absolute No. 1 priority is recovery. This means a strong partnership with the township residents to help get the resources that are needed. With our people in mind, the township needs to be easy to do business with. We need to continue to prioritize supporting our business, residential, and lake needs for the foreseeable future so that we can continue to be a thriving community.

4. What challenges do you anticipate Jerome Township trustees will encounter?

Immediately, the breadth of need in Jerome Township comes to mind. Many of those needs require both time and money to remedy. It will be challenging to identify the best path forward to meet all of the needs in the community. However, I believe that acting with resiliency and tenacity are key to supporting the citizens for the future. Another challenge I anticipate will be the need to ensure that I gather enough information to be able to vote from an informed position with consideration for my constituents. I will leverage my experience in people analytics to ensure that I make data driven decisions.

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