When the COVID-19 crisis began, the Colorado Restaurant Association was focused on helping restaurants survive the immediate eight- to 12-week closure. To name a few of our wins, we pushed for federal cash relief, to-go and delivery alcohol sales, and getting restaurants classified as essential so they could stay open for takeout and delivery during the shutdown. But as capacity has not increased as quickly as we’d hoped after reopening, our attention has turned to helping our industry weather an indefinite and grave crisis—one in which 62 percent of restaurateurs tell us they can’t survive more than six months under current conditions. Restaurateurs have told us cash and increased capacity best improve their odds of making it, so we are especially focused on initiatives that move the needle for those two things. Here are five of our top priorities:
While we continue to push for increased indoor capacity as quickly as is safe, we are looking for creative ways to increase the number of patrons restaurants can serve in other ways, too. In the summer, this meant expanded patio programs. As we look to winter, we’re working on extending those programs and removing barriers to making them usable in the colder months—such as adding heaters and tents—as well as other creative measures that might allow for more capacity indoors.
More Cash Relief at the Federal Level
The Paycheck Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was meant to be bridge funding to survive what was initially hoped to be a relatively short crisis. The original program didn’t work well for restaurants, and we now find ourselves in prolonged limbo, with the funds mostly gone. Restaurants need more cash—and we are working with our U.S. congressional delegation on several different proposals that would provide it, including a second round of PPP funding, the RESTART Act, and the RESTAURANTS Act.
Removing Regulatory and Financial Burdens, and Securing Cash at the Local and State Levels
In a climate where every dollar counts, we’re working with state and local governments to eliminate regulation that increases costs, and pushing proposals that allow restaurateurs to save cash. Some examples include tax holidays and deferments, cutting through permitting red tape and fees for initiatives like expanded patios, and freezing local minimum wage increases for the duration of the crisis. While state and local governments cannot provide as much cash as the federal government, we are advocating for relief programs where we can. For instance, we’ve asked local governments to reallocate their CARES Act dollars to assist restaurants in purchasing personal protective equipment and making dining room upgrades.
Campaigns to Get Diners into Restaurants
Our Foundation began this crisis by raising nearly $2 million for the Angel Relief Fund, and distributed more than 3,400 grants to workers who were laid off, furloughed, or diagnosed with COVID. It continues to fund workers experiencing hardship, and it’s launched Dine Out to Help Out, an effort to drive diners back into restaurants. This initiative launched with a gift card program in Cherry Creek, and continued with a series of unique chapter initiatives around the state. Check out dineouttohelpout.com to learn more.
The Association worked with the Colorado Tourism Office to launch Restaurant Bingo, a program designed to promote dining out, delivery, and eating in—while giving opportunities to participants to win prizes, including restaurant gift certificates (purchased from sponsor support) and Colorado vacations.
Operational Education Series
We know many restaurateurs feel overwhelmed by navigating the changes of the COVID era, and are trying to figure out how to survive in a variety of possible scenarios, from a second shutdown to a prolonged period of reduced capacity. So we’ve launched an education series that focuses on practical operational how-tos on forecasting and contingency planning, boosting delivery revenues, and renegotiating the terms of your lease. Find more info on this series on our website.
Editor’s Note: We will continue to filter, curate, and report news from the Colorado Restaurant Association as it relates to independent restaurants and bars at DiningOut.com. To learn even more, visit the CRA’s website, where you can also sign up for the CRA Newsletter.