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Restaurants in NYC will take longer to bounce back: Danny Meyer

Jeanette Settembre

The restaurant capital of the world will take longer to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer says.

With COVID-19 cases up in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas where restaurants have resumed full-service dining, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday indoor dining will be delayed to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, restaurateurs are eager to get employees back to work.

“The restaurant industry is absolutely indicative of where the economy of this country is going to go. We were the highest employer outside of government in the entire country,” Meyer, the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, told FOX Business on Thursday.

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Meyer’s restaurant group, which owns more than 20 restaurants, had to lay off around 2,000 employees, or 80 percent of the company’s total staff because of the pandemic. And while outdoor dining has resumed, restaurants are operating at limited capacity.

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“We’ve been working really, really hard to do something to get back to hiring so many of the people, unfortunately, we’ve had to lay off. As cruel as it was to go through all those layoffs, the sad thing is if we had to hire people back and lay them off again that would be even crueler so we’re waiting it out,” Meyer explained.

“New York is very different than the rest of the country because a lot of people come to work via public transportation and it's taking a lot longer to get back," he added.

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Meyer's restaurant group has teamed up with Rethink Food, a nonprofit organization, to hire back some staff members to make food for those in need.

Restaurants are crucial to feeding the economy. The leisure and hospitality sector added the most positions last month -- more than 2 million -- according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 percent in June, while a total of 4.8 million jobs were added to the nation's economy -- both better-than-expected figures.

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Meyer says he's supporting a recently proposed bill called the RESTAURANTS Act (Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive), which aims to help independent foodservice and drinking establishments that have had a hard time accessing Paycheck Protection Program loans. If passed, the bill would implement a $120 billion grant program and give small businesses the cash they need to stay open under restrictions like capacity limits.

"The PPP loans apply mostly to being able to rehire your staff back, and if your jurisdiction does not permit you to hire people because you can’t be in business it doesn’t really do you a lot of good," Meyer said.

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