Houston's restaurant community has turned to Mayor Sylvester Turner to assist with helping them seek relief from the economic losses sustained during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of chefs, owners, front-of-house staff, and more have signed the letter.
Initiated by Truth BBQ pitmaster-owner, Leonard Botello IV, and his longtime girlfriend, Abbie Byrom, the letter requests the mayor's assistance in helping restaurants seek the following programs that would help them survive through the dramatic loss in business they are currently suffering:
- Negotiating delayed or deferred sales tax payments on the state level.
- Mandate for landlords to charge rent at cost, a 30 day relief, or renegotiate leases to scale back to market rate in 90 days.
- Offer paid sick leave for our employees.
- Use emergency funds to allow restaurants to file ‘interruption of business’ claims to cover 30 days of labor or rent costs; something insurance companies are denying during this crisis.
- Allow restaurant owners, who cannot file for unemployment at this time, to file for economic assistance due to furlough, closure, or loss of business greater than 50 percent.
In addition to most of the staff of Truth BBQ, signatories include Chris Shepherd (Underbelly Hospitality), Bobby Matos (State of Grace, etc.), and Justin Yu (Theodore Rex, etc.), with more being added all the time. Industry workers who would like to add their name to the list should contact Byrom via email.
City of Houston press secretary Mary Benton tells CultureMap in an email that the mayor "is advocating on the federal level to get assistance for businesses that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19/coronavirus disease in the city of Houston." She included a copy of a letter he sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that states "an immediate aid package should be developed for the national restaurant and bar industry."
Turner's specific proposals include many of the items the letter writers are seeking, including "direct aid to restaurants and employees, tax and fee adjustments, and mortgage, lease and loan payment relief."
Turner states that Houston's more-than-12,500 restaurants employ over 300,000 people, which makes it the city's fourth largest industry.
Congress is currently debating a coronavirus relief package that could include small business such as bars and restaurants. That National Restaurant Association has proposed the creation of a $145 billion Restaurant Foodservice Industry Recovery Fund that includes a wide variety of loans, cash payments, and other assistance.