Save America's Restaurants

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Chelsea Schilling
Chelsea Schilling signed this petition

To our governors, mayors, and legislators:

Imagine your cities and states without their most beloved restaurants and bars—from cherished third-generation mom-and-pops to cutting-edge fine-dining spots that bring tourists, international attention, and increased real-estate value to neighborhoods.

It’s unimaginable, right?

Restaurants and bars are defining and vital contributors to our communities. They are gathering places where people celebrate good times and forget their troubles in bad. Older ones are as much a part of their landscape and cities’ identity as landmark buildings, theaters, and museums. But the danger of COVID-19 means that they can no longer be that place for people. And it means that this time, we are among those in trouble.

As chefs, bartenders, and restaurant and bar owners, we are writing to tell you that without swift action and commitment from our local and state governments, many of the restaurants that closed voluntarily—or by mandate—at this moment of crisis will not come back. That sounds like an exaggeration. It is not. We are on the brink of extinction.

Just as many individuals live from paycheck to paycheck, so too do restaurants and bars. There’s no nest egg. No reserve fund. No glass to break in case of emergency. We cannot work from home, and even if we temporarily convert to delivery and carry-out, we lose most of our revenue and the tips our employees depend upon to survive. Without significant help, many if not most of us will vanish, and our communities will be deprived of their gathering places, generosity, and memories old and yet to come. Dark spaces with hand-scrawled signs in the window will be grim souvenirs of the light and laughter that once emanated from them.

We implore you to engage with local industry leaders and restaurant associations immediately to come to a swift plan for how you can meaningfully give your local restaurants the best chance for survival. The needs vary from city to city, but at a minimum, we humbly implore you to please consider:

  • Providing emergency employment benefits to all hourly and salaried workers who have been laid off or suffered or lost their pay for the length of this crisis
  • Waiving payroll tax
  • Endorsing rent and loan abatement for workers
  • Working with state liquor authorities to enable restaurants offering take out and delivery to also sell/deliver beer, wine and cocktails by the bottle
  • Waving zoning or permit restrictions to allow restaurants to temporarily use their spaces as boutique food and beverage markets, offering an alternative to overcrowded supermarkets and by extension continuing to pay their staff and support their farms and purveyors. 

Others in specific locations will have additional thoughts. We urge you to listen and help immediately.

For years, chefs, bartenders and restaurant and bar owners have contributed to our communities, routinely providing food, service and auction items to fundraisers and other charity events, even though we earn precious little ourselves. Now, we need help from our communities and government.

Thank you for your consideration. With your swift leadership, commitment, and action, we look forward to serving you and our communities again in the near future.

Hugh Acheson, Empire State South (Atlanta)

Reem Assil, Reem’s California (San Francisco, Oakland, and Fruitvale, CA)

Vishwesh Bhatt, Snackbar (Oxford, MS)

Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, Boka Restaurant Group (Chicago)

Justin Carlisle, Ardent, Laughing Taco, and Red Light Ramen (Milwaukee)

Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp, Honey Butter Fried Chicken and Sunday Dinner Club (Chicago)

Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy, New York City

Scott Conant, Cellaio Steak (Monticello, NY) and Mora Italian (Phoenix)

Tim and Nancy Cushman, O Ya (Boston and New York City)

Bruce Finkelman, 16” on Center (Chicago)

Marc Forgione, Restaurant Marc Forgione, American Cut, American Cut Bar & Grill, Lobster Press, and Peasant (New York City)

Alex Guarnaschelli, Butter (New York City)

Will Guidara, The Welcome Conference

Michael Gulotta, Maypop and Mopho (New Orleans)

Jason Hammel, Lula Cafe, (Chicago)

Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf (New Orleans)

Tim Hollingsworth, Otium (Los Angeles)

Vivian Howard, Chef & the Farmer and Boiler Room Oyster Bar (Kinston, NC) and Benny’s Big Time (Wilmington, NC)

Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani (Asheville, NC and Decatur, GA), Botiwalla (Atlanta and Alpharetta, GA), Buxton Hall Barbecue and MG Road Lounge (Asheville, NC)

Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat (Chicago)

JJ Johnson, FIELDTRIP (New York City)

Gavin Kaysen, Soigne Hospitality Group (Minneapolis)

Bill Kim, Urbanbelly Restaurants (Chicago)

Hooni Kim, Danji (New York City)

David Kinch, Manresa and The Bywater (Los Gatos, CA), Manresa Bread (Campbell, Los Gatos, and Los Altos, CA), and Mentone (Aptos, CA)

Cheetie Kumar, Garland (Raleigh, NC)

Carlo Lamagna, Magna (Portland, OR)

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, Border Grill DTLA; Border Grill Truck and Catering, Border Grill Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas), and Socalo (Santa Monica)

Preeti Mistry, Juhu (Oakland, CA)

Patrick O’Connell, The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, VA)

Chris Pandel, Swift & Sons (Chicago)

Naomi Pomeroy, Beast (Portland, OR)

Andy Ricker, Pok Pok Restaurants (Portland)

John Ross and Phillip Walters, B Hospitality (Chicago)

Michael Schwartz, The Genuine Hospitality Group (Miami, FL)

Alon Shaya, Saba (New Orleans) and Shaya (Denver)

Chris Shepherd, Underbelly Hospitality (Houston)

Nancy Silverton, Osteria Mozza, chi SPACCA, and Mozza2Go (Los Angeles) and Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles and Newport Beach, CA)

Alpana Singh, Terra & Vine (Evanston, IL)

Curtis Stone, Maude (Beverly Hills), Gwen (Los Angeles), and Georgie by Curtis Stone (Dallas)

Jeremy Umansky, Larder Delicatessen and Bakery (Cleveland)

Norman Van Aken, Chef, Author, Grandfather (Florida)

Kyle Linden Webster and Naomi Pomeroy Expatriate, (Portland, OR)

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA)

John Winterman, Bâtard and Francie (New York City)

Lee Ann Wong, Koko Head Cafe (Honolulu)

Geoffrey Zakarian, The Lambs Club (New York City)