The U.S. reached another grim milestone today, and it's not just the continual increase in COVID-19 case numbers.
The National Restaurant Association has completed its latest survey on the economic health of the industry, and the findings are devastating: 110,000 food and drink establishments have closed across the nation. That's 10,000 more since the trade group conducted its last survey in August.
The probability of a restaurant boom once the pandemic subsides is looking less hopeful as the weeks press on. Fifty-two percent of former owners of those shuttered businesses say they will not return. Operators who've managed to stay afloat say they're feeling pinched now by rising operating costs, experienced by 59% in the industry, even as sales decline.
In Oregon, the numbers reflect the national trend. Eighty percent of restaurant owners report that their total dollar sales volume in October was lower than it was one year prior. Overall, sales were down 30% on average. And 39% of operators in this state do not believe they'll be in business six months from now if the federal government fails to pass an additional aid package.
With ongoing congressional gridlock surrounding any relief legislation, more restaurants are turning to digital fundraising—and, with hope, to the loyalty of their customer base—to avoid closing the doors for good.
The latest business to launch a GoFundMe campaign is Dan & Louis Oyster Bar. The Southwest Ankeny Street establishment is Portland's oldest family-owned restaurant, serving customers raw, steamed and fried shellfish since 1907.
Dan & Louis temporarily closed after Gov. Kate Brown issued the statewide freeze on indoor dining before Thanksgiving. Fourth-generation owners Keoni and Michelle Wachsmuth are now uncertain the Portland landmark will survive COVID-19 and its related restrictions on food and drink service.
"COVID-19 has impacted all of us and forced us to constantly adjust and change the way we do business as a restaurant," Michelle Wachsmuth stated in a press release. "While we've made it this far in 2020, there is still much uncertainty in the coming year and cold winter months ahead."
As of Dec. 8, just one week into its campaign, Dan & Louis had raised $11,318 of its $100,000 goal. The Wachsmuths hope to reopen when they can fully operate indoors, and they also plan to create an outdoor patio for guests who would prefer taking their meals in the open air due to concerns about the virus.
While independent bars and restaurants continue to do what they can to avoid folding, the National Restaurant Association is still pushing Congress to quickly pass legislation, like Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer's Restaurants Act, that would prop up all segments of the industry. Recently, Oregon hospitality businesses received a $55 million injection from the state, but the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association says it's simply not enough to cover the losses suffered during the pandemic.
"As costs continue to rise and revenues continue to fall for operators, and with more layoffs likely in the future, Oregon's hospitality industry needs Congress to put aside the turf wars and come together to pass a relief package," said ORLA spokesperson Greg Astley. "Without it, your neighbor's job is in jeopardy and your favorite neighborhood restaurant may be the next one to forever close their doors."