BALTIMORE (WJZ) – The Restaurant Association of Maryland projects 25% of restaurants will close permanently as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
"We're losing some longtime restaurants that have been a staple in the community," Marshall Weston, President and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said. "This crisis has gone on much longer than anyone has anticipated and, quite frankly, restaurants are running out of money."
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Weston said 45% of the state's restaurants are currently closed, either because they have not shifted to the take-out model or they are closed for good.
"I think restaurants need to know what the timeline is to reopen," Weston said. "The pressures that restaurants are going to feel during this transition process are going to be immense."
City Café in Mount Vernon and Ryleigh's Oyster in Federal Hill each announced permanent closures within the past week.
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Weston hopes lawmakers create restaurant-specific relief funds. He says 150,000 restaurant workers statewide are out of work.
In a webinar with Baltimore's Downtown Partnership, restaurant owner Phil Han said many restaurant owners are dependent on landlord flexibility when it comes to the fate of their restaurants.
"It is very challenging, particularly representing the restaurant landscape, to operate in this climate," Han, owner of several restaurants including Sugarvale and Dooby's, said. "Part of the reason you're seeing such a relatively small number of restaurants announcing their closures, is because we're all just waiting on (landlord) decisions, which is very scary to think about."
Weston said margins are thin to begin with. Now, restaurant owners will have to navigate re-training employees, capacity limits, and a potentially weary public.
"I know many people feel they're not ready to return to a restaurant and that's OK," Weston said. "The restaurant will be ready when you are."
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