CHICAGO (CBS) — Some restaurant owners say they won’t reopen next Friday when limited indoor seating is allowed because 25% capacity will sink their businesses.
The restaurants that have the ability to host people outside and inside are in a much better position. Not everyone can, and those that do aren’t doing well.
“Our industry has taken a huge hit,” said Tony Priolo, chef and partner at Maillard Tavern in River West.
He calls it less of an opportunity to cash in and more of a way to help his 14 employees make ends meet.
“We’re going to continue to pay them,” he said. “We’re not going to turn our backs like people are turning their backs on us.”
Priolo said his business cannot survive if this continues.
Next Friday the city will allow restaurants and bars to serve people inside at 25% and up to 50 people per room. That means because Maillard’s Tavern can hold 47 people they will only be able to serve about a dozen inside. Priolo says that means an additional $400.
Unfortunately that math won’t make sense for most restaurants, including Mo’s Cantina in River North.
“It’s emotional because my people, they need to get back to work,” said owner Sam Sanchez.
But with the limitations he said he cannot open up his dine-in business. The cantina can host about 800. The city will only allow him 50.
“If we’re going to open and just blow the money we won’t survive till the end of the year,” he said.
Sam Toya of the Illinois Restaurant Association estimates up to 75% of Chicago restaurants won’t open up for the limited indoor dining because the costs of operation outweigh the potential gain. He said guest and worker safety during COVID-19 is crucial but hopes health officials will soon allow city bars and restaurants, like surrounding communities, to serve up to at least 50% capacity.
At Maillard’s Tavern they are preparing for diners inside and outside, but not many are prepared for the losses COVID-19 continues to serve the industry.
“I’m close to a million dollars in debt,” said Priolo. “If I close the door I have no way to recoup that, and my staff has no way to pay for their grocers for their families. This is bigger than just the business owner. We’re all on the same team.”
So what is the level that restaurants say can work? Some owners say they can make ends meet at 50% capacity, but for others it’s 75%.
But when we get there, that’s all up to the COVID-19 numbers and how health officials see those numbers.