Sushi chefs work on April 28th. April 2020 at the preparation of dishes at Sushi & Sushi. (Anne Raup / ADN)
For the third time this year, Anchorage restaurants and bars will be closing to indoor service as the city goes through another round of COVID-19 restrictions, and many in the hospitality industry fear the ramifications for business owners and whose owners will be serious employees.
On Wednesday, Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson announced the new Emergency Ordinance, which she called « Modified Hunker-Down ». “Bars, restaurants and breweries may only be used for takeaway, delivery and eating outdoors for the month of December. The order also includes other pandemic restrictions, including stricter restrictions on indoor gatherings and a 25% capacity limit on retail stores.
« I know this is incredibly difficult news for so many people hanging by a single thread, » Quinn-Davidson said during the announcement. “And that this is unfair to companies that have overhauled their operations to meet ever-changing needs, only to be asked to shut down again. ”
Industry leaders said last week that another closure would result in permanent closings of bars and restaurants across town. During the August closure, some restaurants refused to close their doors, resulting in brief litigation over city mandates, which were upheld by the courts.
Sarah Oates, president of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retail Association, said in an email that the association was « devastated and angry » when it learned of the Emergency Ordinance on Wednesday.
That frustration spread across the industry as restaurant and bar owners, reached by the Daily News on Wednesday, feared their businesses could not survive the winter without significant economic help.
[Anchorage’s hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients in billowing cases and « no sign of slowing down »]
« With this emergency ordinance, the Anchorage economy and hospitality industry are facing massive, irreparable devastation, » said Oates.
Quinn-Davidson on Wednesday called on Congress to pass another round of economic aid to businesses in difficulty and said she plans to ask the congregation to use the remaining $ 15 million in CARES Act funding for grants to provide relief for hospitality businesses as well as for rent and mortgage.
« We shouldn’t have to choose between public health and the well-being of businesses and workers, » she said. “We cannot bring back lost lives, but economic hardship can be avoided with just one act of Congress. ”
Oates said that she, along with other local industry organizations like the Brewers Guild of Alaska, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, and the Alaska Small Business Development Center, made suggestions to the mayor for additional restrictions, including a 25% capacity limit, which are very sensible and effective Alternatives to a complete local government shutdown of industry. ”
“During previous shutdowns, business owners and their employees have had billions of dollars in federal, state and local aid available. These funds are exhausted, ”said Oates.
For Robert Kilby, co-owner of 907 Alehouse, the closure is another blow to the brutal year of the restaurant and its staff. Kilby said his business had exceeded COVID-19 health precautions and mandates.
« We followed every rule they gave us. Every mandate. We were walking around our restaurant with a tape measure and walking outside when they said we had to wear a mask 100% of the time, ”Kilby said. « And it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s not good enough and now they’re closing our business. ”
In the Crossroads Lounge, co-owner Jennipher Jenner said she saw the closure coming. Still, she said, it felt unfair.
« Obviously there is an increase in some cases and I think we’re all so exhausted from all of this, » Jenner said. “Not just our industry, but everyone. ”
Jenner doesn’t think anyone caught the virus at her bar, and the staff keep a ledger of everyone who walks in and have notified customers when there is a known positive coronavirus case, she said.
« We feel a little bit special because we feel like we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe, » said Jenner.
Even so, « something is going on because the numbers keep rising, » she said. « That’s just the truth. ”
Bar and restaurant owners said Wednesday they are most concerned about the welfare of their employees. Many lose hours or are laid off due to the shutdown.
« These aren’t people with huge bank accounts – how will they get their rent on Jan.. January pay? « He said.
Biponh Morisath-Luce, owner of Pho Lenas East Anchorage and downtown restaurants, said she employs many Thai and Lao people who don’t speak English and who have trouble finding work elsewhere.
« I will continue until I can no longer operate, » she said. She recently received a grant from the city to help keep rent paid, but it only covered bills for about a month.
Kevin Berry, assistant professor of economics at UAA, said during the mayor’s briefing on Wednesday that people on lower incomes are recovering more slowly from the pandemic than people on higher incomes.
« The pain is not shared equally, » he said. Food and beverage companies and « mom and pop shops » are hardest hit, he said.
« If we look at the Food Service and Drinking Place categories, Anchorage is 1. 800 jobs in a sector with normally 11. 600 jobs cut in October, « said Berry.
Hospitality companies and employees rely on Christmas sales to survive the winter, Oates said.
Sun Kim – the owner of two Anchorage restaurants, Sushi & Sushi and TOZAI Japanese Restaurant – said her biggest month is usually December when she hosts and hosts Christmas parties.
Last year she had over 5. 000 people invited to their restaurants for December parties, Kim said. This year she has no catering parties planned and will have to cancel all of her in-house parties.
Most employees have worked for Kim between five and ten years. She managed to keep most of the staff during the last two shutdowns, but it’s getting tougher this time because she hasn’t made any money since the August shutdown.
Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering education and common assignments for the Daily News. While on a fellowship with The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon, she shared the breaking news before joining ADN in 2020. Emily graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism.
World News – CA – Anchorage restaurants and bars fear for their employees and their survival with another « Hunker Down »
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