A group representing chefs and restaurant owners in Massachusetts is calling on state lawmakers to help them survive. With temperatures dropping and outdoor dining becoming more difficult, they say more relief is needed now.
Massachusetts Restaurants United rallied outside the State House on Tuesday in their chef coats and aprons. They are hoping lawmakers will pass an economic aid package that includes a fund for distressed restaurants. They say the grants could be used to cover rent, payroll and other expenses.
On the steps of the State House, the chefs and owners told their stories of struggle. According to the Massachusetts Restaurants Association, 20% of eateries have closed for good due to the coronavirus pandemic. Without more relief, the group says that list will become even longer.
“If we’re struggling, everybody is struggling,” chef and restaurateur Jamie Bissonnette said. “With this, we would be able to rest assured and head into the holidays on steady ground instead of on an inflatable inter tube.”
The bill would also put caps on third-party delivery fees. As many restaurant owners start spending hundreds of dollars a day on propane tanks to heat their patios, they say every penny counts.
“I’ll be honest, each day I try to think about next steps and next steps are a challenge because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Chef Cheryl Straughter of Soleil Restaurant in Nubian Square.
State Representative James Kelcourse (R- 1st Essex District) said he supports the aid package and will do what he can to help restaurants survive.
“With winter upon us, we need to do something,” he said.
Restaurants Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Chef Jose Duarte just had to close his North End restaurant Taranta after 20 years in business. He said he hopes something can be done before it is too late for everyone else.
“We need help and we need it now. Otherwise everyone is going to have to shut down,” he said.