Dear Community Leaders,
Thank you for all you have done over the past months to thread a difficult needle of maintaining public health as well as seeking to maintain the momentum of our local economy. We are truly grateful for the countless hours of hard work.
As restaurateurs, we do ask, however, for a reexamination of the extensive regulations placed on restaurants in this time of rising COVID cases. There is little evidence that restaurants — operating as they were with limited capacity for the past several months — contributed to the current rise in cases. In all likelihood, not allowing people — patrons and restaurateurs alike — to exercise their right to assume their own level of risk results in more individuals gathering in smaller settings like homes with little-to-no COVID protections or protocols. The unintended consequence of your highly restrictive restaurant policies is a higher rate of infection.
During this ordeal, officials have pleaded with the public, including restaurateurs, to trust the science and the data. Turning the question around is fair — what data and science exists to say that restaurants have been the driving force of the spread of the virus? Recent state health data suggests that restaurants are responsible for less than 3 percent of cases, whereas retail establishments could be traced to being responsible for as much as 5 percent. Restaurateurs are not calling for retailers to close down, BUT we request a response as to why restaurants have borne the brunt of the commercial business restrictions.
Public health officials have noted that perhaps the lower rate is due to a lack of restaurants being reported as the source of COVID infection. But as a banker with many clients in the restaurant industry, I (Shawn) can personally attest to the extraordinary measures many of our restaurants have taken to meet and exceed the constantly changing regulations. In light of those efforts, I further challenge the application of extensive regulations on our small businesses, while larger box stores face almost none.
Additionally, requiring restaurants to rebuild our business outside our existing premise to operate at all only further increases the cost burden to attempt to operate. Such a regulation only begs the question of why other commercial businesses are not required to begin selling their goods outside.
Please remember that behind every shuttered or failing restaurant is a family with a dream and a livelihood, and the livelihoods of those employed by them. We respectfully ask why these lives seem to matter less as a policy priority than the lives behind other businesses. We respectfully ask our representatives to request the same standard of data and science rigor from our regulators as we, as citizens, have been asked to give.
Roll back the regulations on restaurants to pre-Thanksgiving levels, or please prove why we need to be shut down!
— Shawn & Mattie Gullixson