Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest days for the hospitality industry, but this year, bags of takeout food replaced festive restaurant meals.
Some local restaurant owners used the day to plead for more federal assistance, saying failure to do so could have economic consequences that last well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
At a table set up outside Fight Club on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, packaged take-home drinks were sold to benefit struggling hospitality employees.
Arlington restaurant owner Nick Freshman is among those advocating for passage of federal relief tailored to locally owned restaurants, not big national chains.
“The next few months will be the hardest of the pandemic,” he said. “We wanted to come out and speak for those in our industry who can’t speak for themselves and draw attention to that situation.”
The National Restaurant Association estimates almost 20% of restaurants nationwide closed temporarily — or permanently — due to the pandemic.
Freshman believes cold weather across much of the nation soon will push that number much higher because of indoor dining restrictions. He believes a disproportionate number of the closures will be among local restaurants. He believes that passing a restaurant relief bill for those types of businesses could forestall a serious long-term consequence: the dimming of vibrant neighborhoods.
“Think of those places that you love to go to, and they never came back and how that would affect your neighborhood and your street and your city,” he said.
2020 will be remembered as the year the owners of local restaurants, in addition to fighting a battle to keep their business going, had to become lobbyists at the highest level.
The National Restaurant Association estimates 110,000 restaurants have closed since March.