Yelp's Stats on Restaurant Closings and What You Can Do

Jose Alacon and Jami Olson accepting the award for Outstanding Restaurant for Popol Vuh at the Charlie Awards ceremony in February of this year. The co-owners just announced the restaurant was closing for good.

Yelp's latest Economic Average report, released last week revealed that 60 percent of the U.S. restaurants that temporarily shuttered due to the pandemic have since permanently closed. 

As of July 10, there were 26,160 total restaurant closures on Yelp, and 15,770 of those are shut down for good, according to USA Today. Apparently, shifting to curbside pickup and online ordering weren't enough to sustain the business long term for many of the casualties. 

The coronavirus-induced business climate has hit bars and nightlife establishments equally hard. Of all the bars listed on Yelp, 5,454 are closed, and 2,429 (44%) of those are permanent shutdowns.

To date, the Twin Cities has lost a number of high-profile, much-loved restaurants, starting with the closing of Bachelor Farmer, then In Bloom, Bellecour, Octo Fishbar and Popol Vuh. And that is just a partial list of the hit the market has taken in both fine dining and comfort food, like Moose and Sadie’s and comfort beer, like Herkimer Brewery on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, which closed after 20 years.

Popol Vuh in Northeast Minneapolis, is one of the latest to announce it won’t be reopening. Chef and co-owner Jose Alarcon, along with Jami Olson, were the recipients of the Charlie Awards—Foodservice News’ salute to the foodservice community—for Outstanding Restaurant for 2020. Fortunately, its sister restaurant, Centro, which shared a building, is still open. The reason is that the fast-casual restaurant was better able to pivot into takeout during the early months of the pandemic and then reopened at 50 percent capacity on its patio and indoor seating.

In Bloom in the Keg and Case Market in St. Paul, another award-winning restaurant, has already been replaced with a new concept, Elote, by Brian and Sarah Ingram and Justin Sutherland.  The trio also has just reopened another new concept called The Gnome in the site of the Happy Gnome on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone, the owners of In Bloom, also have Revival Smoked Meats, a fast-casual concept, in the market.

Octo Fishbar was the latest offering from James Beard-award winning chef, Tim McKee, a replacement for his La Belle Vie, the longtime grande dame of upscale dining. It was located in the former Heartland location in the Market House Collaboration.

Just days after announcing a new popup bakery across the street from Spoon and Stable, Gavin Kaysen announced he was closing his French-bistro. Bellecour, in Wayzata. The popup, featuring pastries and sandwiches, plus coffee, is in the Cooks of Crocus Hill location in Minneapolis’ North Loop. Both Demi and Spoon and Stable are still open.

The National Restaurant Association and its state groups, plus the Independent Restaurant Coalition, are lobbying for help from the federal government in a form that will be useful in keeping restaurants afloat while mandates are in place for limited dining options and patrons are resistant to returning to restaurants while a pandemic rages on.

Here’s how you can help your industry, according to Hospitality Minnesota:

Nothing is more powerful than your voice! Please contact your U.S. Congressperson and Senators today and tell them to support the survival of our industry. Remind them that the hospitality industry supports over 1 in 10 jobs in Minnesota and we cannot afford to let these businesses collapse.

Ask them to:

·       Authorize a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) relief. Increase the maximum loan amount, create greater expense flexibility and make them tax-deductible;

·        Support S.4012 (the senate version of the Restaurants Act) to create a $120 billion recovery fund, with grants up to $10 million;

·        Provide targeted liability protection to create a safe harbor for those acting in good faith to follow public health guidelines;

·        Create a federal program to support business interruption claims by impacted businesses;

·        Advance additional lending options, including:

·       New loan program with long-term maturity, deferred payments, low-interest and forgiveness provisions;

·       Expanded Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) funding and new advance grants for businesses experiencing significant revenue reduction; and

·       Tailored assistance for lodging companies with Commercial Mortgage Back Securities (CMBS) loans and expand access to the Main Street Lending Facility established by the CARES Act.

·       Expand tax credits for hospitality businesses, including:

·       Temporary travel tax credit for qualified travel expenses such as lodging, meals, recreation, transportation, entertainment, business meetings or events, etc.

·       Tax credits for customer and employee wellness expenditures for PPE, enhanced sanitation, and other efforts;

·       Enhance the Employee Retention Tax Credit, including making sure that businesses are eligible after a PPP loan is exhausted.

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