Can Restaurants Survive the COVID-19 Disaster, or Is It Over for Good?


As the COVID–19 pandemic continues to swarm 2020 and completely dominate most of its months, it is hard to predict whether the year 2021 will begin at all. The infamous pandemic has taken over almost every aspect of our nation and left many citizens jobless and in fear. Countless businesses are rapidly losing revenue, and many others are slowly closing their doors. As the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago is well known for its phenomenal restaurant scene, diversity in cuisine and its fearless people.

Tavern On Rush | Photo by Nozanin Farrukhzoda

Unfortunately, hope has not been shining brightly in the hospitality industry since February of this year. According to a US Department of Labor report, during the first three weeks of March alone restaurants lost an estimated $25 billion in sales and laid off 3 million people nationwide. Now in the second restaurant shutdown mandated by Governor J.B. Pritzker in eight months, 594,000 hospitality jobs are at stake – and 20% of Chicago’s restaurants are predicted to permanently close by the end of the year. These are indeed devastating times for restaurant owners and workers. However, Chicagoans are not ones to give up. To survive and keep their businesses afloat, restaurant owners are taking matters into their own hands. During the first mandated closure, independent restaurant owners and chefs wrote a letter directly to Governor Pritzker with concerns and requested assistance to cover fiscal losses. Recommendations made in that letter included:

  • Provide immediate emergency unemployment benefits for all hourly and salaried workers furloughed during this crisis
  • Temporarily eliminate the payroll tax
  • A call for rent and loan abatement for workers impacted by the closure of the restaurant industry

Other restaurants are bringing matters to court. After the second restriction on indoor dining took effect on November 1st, over twenty restaurant owners downstate in Springfield, IL decided to file lawsuits against Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), citing government overreach. The outcomes of these lawsuits have yet to be determined.

Tavern On Rush | Photo by Nozanin Farrukhzoda

These challenging times could completely change the way Americans socialize and dine out. For starters, some restaurants will offer dining in heated patio tents during the upcoming winter months. Current regulations state that these outdoor patio tents must have two openings for airflow, and that a maximum of 25 seated guests be seated at one time with an hour and a half visit limit per table. Many restaurants have also made their menu available online via QR codes, so guests do not have to share physical menus while dining out.

Historically, hard times have challenged people to find new and creative ways to survive, and recent adaptations in the restaurant industry are no exception. American citizens always overcome obstacles no matter how hard and painful they are. Globally, humanity has survived many devastating events, including the comparable Spanish Flu pandemic a mere century ago. In great faith, humanity will conquer this also. As people always say, “This too shall pass”.