MORE than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long-term in the United States due to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it is predicted that more restaurants will close in New York City when winter arrives.

The national tally representing one in six US restaurants is one of the findings of a survey released recently by the National Restaurant Association. That figure is up from about 100,000 closes in the September survey.

The Washington-based trade group shared the latest results with congressional leaders in a bid to secure financial support for a sector rocked by rising costs and falling sales.

“The restaurant industry cannot wait for help any longer,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs at the association, said in a letter to Congress quoted by Bloomberg.

“What these findings make clear is that more than 500,000 restaurants of every type of business, both franchised and independent, are in an economic downturn,” he added.

As people continue to stay at home and new indoor eating bans emerge across the country, restaurateurs have struggled to maintain sales, with many of the hardest-hit areas in states such as New York and Illinois.

Nearly 90% of restaurants in the survey reported declines, with average incomes down 36%. Spending has also picked up amid the pandemic, with 59% of operators saying total labor costs as a percentage of sales are higher than before the pandemic.

Industry has been pleading for help, with many pinning their hopes on the Restaurants Act, which will create a US$120 billion fund to help restaurants, as well as from the Salary Protection Program.

Meanwhile, the prospects for this sector are worrying. Thirty-seven percent of operators said it was unlikely their restaurant would continue operating six months from now if there were no additional government assistance packages, according to the survey. More than one in three operators are considering temporarily closing until conditions improve.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, Governor Andrew Cuomo said indoor dining would be closed in New York City and reduced statewide if regional hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 had not stabilized after five days. [antaranews/photo]