“If you talk to restaurants around the world, the language may change, but the math is the same,” Pernice told CNN Business. “Restaurants and bars need volume and traffic to make them work.”
Pernice was forced to fire or lay off 80 of its 120 employees. Across the world, millions of workers in other bars and restaurants have lost their jobs as countries impose rigid blocks designed to contain the pandemic. Some of these restrictions are now being eased, but restaurants and bars are not given priority for reopening because they are seen as places where the virus could spread.
It is a business model that is simply not compatible with social distancing.
“There will be no profits for us while we are distancing ourselves from the social,” said Blaiss Nowak, another Georgia restaurateur who chose to reopen when the restrictions were lifted last month. “There are many restaurants that I have heard will never reopen.”
Nowak has reduced the number of customers in his restaurant from 200 per night to just 50, with tables spaced 12 feet apart. The main dining room, which housed 60 people at a time, is now limited to 24. He hopes that by opening now, his employees will be trained to manage social distance when customers feel more confident about returning to eat.
Some restaurateurs claim that they will remain closed rather than open with reduced seating. New York restaurant operator Union Square Hospitality Group laid off around 2,000 people in March and its CEO, Danny Meyer, said last week that he doesn’t expect customers to return until a vaccine is found. (There is no guarantee that will happen.)
That feeling is widespread. In Italy, thousands of restaurant owners protested the government’s proposed social removal measures, which are expected to come into effect when restaurants can reopen on June 1st.
“This restaurant is the love of my life, but my preference is not to open,” said Mario Firpo, owner of Gennaro Esposito Milano, a pizzeria in Milan. He estimates that the capacity of the restaurant will decrease by almost 70% if he is forced to keep the tables two meters away.
Firpo is part of a movement of Italian restaurateurs who protest online and on the streets under the hashtag “I don’t open” or “I don’t open”, while others use the banner “Risorgiamo Italia” or “Italia Rises Again”.
In the UK, three quarters of bar and restaurant operators are unsure of surviving social distancing and many would prefer to remain closed, according to a survey of more than 260 establishments run by SquareMeal, a guide to bars and restaurants.
“If we suddenly cut our customers in half without government support, this would result in a huge number of closures and job losses,” said James Ramsden, owner of a London restaurant whose business only breaks down to 85% of its capacity. .
Kate Nicolls, CEO of the UK Hospitality trade association, has called on the government to support companies with rental payments to continue wage support for workers in the sector. “For some companies, [social distancing] it will not be economically viable and it may not be possible to open a significant number of stores, “he said.
Social distancing in the pub
Bars are even worse than restaurants, according to Gagan Gurung, the owner of Hong Kong’s Tell Camellia. The former British colony imposed social exclusion rules, allowing restaurants and bars to remain open at half capacity and with a distance of one and a half meters between groups.
But when infection rates rose in late March, the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau found that over half of the new cases had arisen in bars. As a result, establishments serving exclusively alcohol were ordered to shut down for a month while restaurants continued to operate.
Since then, the Gurung cocktail bar has been able to reopen. But he claims that in the long run it is not possible to reduce his normal capacity of 30 seats in half.
“How do you survive only with 15 people 1.5 meters away?” Gurung said. “It is definitely not healthy for our business.”
Ireland is known for its pub culture and nearly 8% of the country’s workers are employed in the beverage and hospitality sector, according to a report released last year by the beverage industry group in Ireland. After bars and restaurants were asked to shut down two months ago two months ago, the Restaurants Association of Ireland reported around 120,000 job losses in the industry.
The Irish government has set a reopening date for pubs on August 10, but has not yet provided guidelines on social distancing. A model proposed by the Irish Federation of Winemakers does not include live music, table service and no more than four people per 10 square meters.
For pub owner Brian O’Malley, the block meant turning to innovative ways of making money. He set up a delivery service for one of his pubs, The Bath in Dublin, bringing freshly poured pints of beer to local residents.
While the delivery service means that money is coming, O’Malley is concerned about the additional costs of the protective measures.
O’Malley said staff costs would rise as workers should disinfect the tables and be placed outside the toilets to ensure adequate hygiene. “I can’t see how the staff will cut back at all, while the revenue will cut a lot,” he said.
Fine dining is also at risk in Ireland, according to Michelin-starred chef JP McMahon, who said a two-meter social removal policy means that “the industry will be wiped out”. For the industry veteran, there is no commercial logic for opening.
“As managing directors, we should say that we shouldn’t open. Should we open knowing that these conditions will make us lose money?” churches.