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Saginaw restaurants, business leaders react to dire predictions for US restaurant industry

 Mid-Michigan restaurants hurting as quarantine drags on
Mid-Michigan restaurants hurting as quarantine drags on (WJRT)
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 10:50 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WJRT) (09/17/2020)-A study released Tuesday by the National Restaurant Association drew dire conclusions regarding the state of the US restaurant industry: around 100-thousand, or roughly one in six, restaurants either closed permanently or shuttered their facilities long-term amid the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

While not everyone is in that same boat, it’s safe to say the future remains far from certain. The study casts doubt on what that future may look like: its NRA authors conclude roughly 40 percent of US restaurants may not make it through another six months without a federal life-line of some kind.

“Federal aid would be excellent.”

Liz Carlton manages Saginaw mainstay Fuzzy’s Restaurant.

“There’s got to be an end,” related Carlton. “A light at the end of the tunnel. There just has to be.”

Limited to half-capacity, its owner says Fuzzy’s is still hemorrhaging: their take is reportedly down year-over-year by around $50-thousand a month.

“It has really decimated the restaurant industry, which works on slim margins to begin with.”

That was Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce President Veronica Horn, who told this reporter she gets a lot of calls these days.

“The numbers are down,” explained Horn. “With their investments, they’re really losing a lot of money.”

Horn cites another study – this one conducted on the state level—which she says shows at least 23-percent of Michigan restaurants may not keep their lights on in the coming months without more federal dollars.

Yet, the prospect of future relief efforts remains uncertain: the democrat’s $3-trillion HEROES Act stalled back in May, while the smaller-scale republican plan never even came up for a vote. The Bipartisan Problem-Solvers Caucus, meanwhile, unveiled its $1.5-trillion strategy Tuesday, which the White House has said may propel negotiations moving forward.

“Congress needs to hear that and they need to act and get a COVID package out,” argued Horn. “Not in a week. Not after the election. They need it now.”

Fuzzy’s has said the storied family business isn’t in any danger of closing in the near-term, but may have to cut back if help doesn’t come soon.

“It’s a family-run business,” explained Carlton. “She’s put her heart and soul into it for 20 years… Some kind of funding to help us get through this… we’ve made it this far. We’re not going to quit swimming.”

The National Restaurant Association is urging congress to vote on a narrow relief package and extend a life-line to the nation’s restaurants before lawmakers adjourn for a month-long recess in early October.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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