In February, the restaurant industry was the nation’s second-largest private sector employer, serving 170 million customers each day and employing more than 15 million people.
While we have all gone through a lot this year, restaurant owners and their employees have had to endure more hard times and adversity than most other industries.
More than 100,000 restaurants have closed across the country and tens of millions of jobs have been lost. In Colorado, more than 65,000 restaurant jobs have been lost due to closing indoor dining last spring, and other overreaching mandates associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Colorado Governor Jared Polis imposed new business restrictions in 15 counties, closing indoor dining at restaurants and prohibiting drinking at bars after 8 p.m.
The Colorado Restaurant Association estimates that 65% of all restaurants in Colorado will close within six months if the lockdowns and excessive government edicts are not lifted.
I have personally received more than two dozen gut-wrenching stories from small business owners and their friends in the last week alone. Here are a few of their pleas:
“I’m desperate. I’m about to lose everything and my ability to feed my family.”
“Going to take out only in the winter is economic suicide. We need your help!”
“Governor Polis sent his investigations unit and pulled a ton of liquor licenses in Weld County last night with no due process whatsoever.”
“Lauren, please fight for us. I love my country so much and I hate what these people are doing to it. Please don’t stop fighting for us.”
“The restaurant was targeted for not complying with the most recent mandates. They notified [the owner] today that his liquor license has been revoked immediately.”
“I have had a successful restaurant since 1995. As you know, the Governor has decided to basically close us down again! I have 60 employees and after taking a second mortgage out on our home managed to keep most of them. Yes, we had PPP. However, it wasn’t there in time to feed our hungry staff.”
“My best friend owns a restaurant. 30 years they spent building their family-owned business. They need your help.”
“We, small business have done everything asked of us to stay open…We need a voice.”
While these stories are sad and make me angry, what is more sad is Governor Polis picking winners and losers and excessively targeting an industry without justification.
As the Colorado Restaurant Association reports, “The restaurant industry is one of the most highly trained industries in matters of disease transmission and prevention.”
Every restaurant in Colorado has increased safety since the COVID-19 outbreak with many installing new plexiglass barriers, implementing increased sanitization measures and social-distancing, and significantly reducing occupancy.
And while corporations like Lowes and Walmart operate almost unimpeded (I am not advocating for more restrictions,) the low-margin restaurant industry is arbitrarily placed in an economic headlock. Pot shops, liquor stores, and even strip clubs have been allowed far higher degrees of freedom to operate, without credible science backing up these huge disparities in policy treatment.
Furthermore, little to no concern was raised about Black Friday shopping at malls and stores across the country. Imagine what went through the minds of those shut down and without income, who were not allowed to participate in such government-approved crowd gatherings.
Some of the very people victimized most by the Governor’s orders include minorities, people with criminal records seeking a second chance, and immigrants. A recent study entitled the Great American Takeout found 47% of restaurant industry employees are minorities and 40% of restaurant owners are minorities.
Let us also not forget that 50% of all adults have worked in the foodservice industry at some point and that 33% of all adults got their first job in the restaurant industry. I am among them.
Our neighbors, friends and even family members in the restaurant business are losing everything as a result of this unjust and unwarranted targeting. America was founded in order to prevent this kind of tyranny and theft from an overzealous government. Their job is to inform us, not arbitrarily destroy us.
Governor Polis, it’s far past time that you end these unconstitutional lockdowns and stop killing our small businesses.
Congresswoman-Elect Lauren Boebert will be sworn into Congress in January 2021. She will be the first woman, first mother, and youngest ever to represent the Third District of Colorado.