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Restaurant owners share challenges COVID-19 restrictions pose

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 9:33 PM CST
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - With new COVID-19 restrictions hitting the state Friday, businesses in the region do what they can to prepare for the potential fallout.

“Right now we’re down 60 to 70%, depending on the week, with these tighter mitigations,” Owner of Caio Bella Scott Frank said.

As restrictions tighten so do profits in restaurants and bars, and for some the sustainability of just a curbside operation poses serious challenges. Lucha Cantina owner Josh Binning says his curbside dining option helps, but it’s not enough.

“Against previous year, we’re doing about half of what we were then it’s hard to run a business on half the sales the previous year,” Binning said.

Frank also moved his restaurant to a curbside only approach. He says pre-pandemic, the dining rooms at Caio Bella would have up to 30 people inside to eat and drink, but with COVID-19 restrictions, he is lucky to serve that many people curbside a night.

“I don’t know how long people are going to keep being able to survive this as restaurant and bar owners,” Frank said. “I can’t imagine that there’s going to be a ton of people around six months from now if this is still going on.”

Experts say Frank’s claim is not wrong. President of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau John Groh says the National Restaurant Association makes some grim predictions.

“They are predicting 30 to 50% closure rates because of COVID and the year that they’ve had, and the year they might have in 2021,” Groh said.

Frank says despite the struggles Ciao Bella is not going anywhere, but some sort of aid would be a life-saving boost for his business.

“We need our leaders to pass the damn payroll protection plan a second time and we need it yesterday,” Frank said.

Frank says one of the biggest deficits is with liquor sales. He says the profit margins are significantly better but fewer people buy a drink when they cannot enter the restaurant.

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