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Food Service Industry Updates

In Los Angeles and Elsewhere, Restaurants Are Being Treated Like Last Week’s Leftovers

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On the surface, it seems easy to blame restaurants for the current increase in COVID-19 cases. But that doesn’t mean that it’s fair. (iStock/Antonio_Diaz)

The National Restaurant Association has been screaming from the top of the mountain for months that restaurants shouldn’t be labeled as scapegoats for spreading the coronavirus.

On the surface, it seems easy to blame restaurants for the current increase in COVID-19 cases. Restaurants are everywhere. People go inside (and outside) of them to eat. Since they are everywhere and people go inside (and outside) of them, well, they just have to be a tremendous conduit for the coronavirus.

But that’s a major and dangerous assumption. One thing the restaurant industry has been pleading for the past several months is for data and scientific evidence linking restaurants to outbreaks, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of it out there.

Until now.

According to Fox Business, recent data from the Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health showed that COVID-19 cases traced back to the county’s restaurants and bars accounted for just 3.1%, or 70 of the total 2,257 confirmed cases found from 204 “outbreak” locations.

Let’s back up for a moment. In Los Angeles County, restaurants were allowed to reopen for outdoor dining only in May, which has been a lifeline for them, especially in a region that experiences consistent good weather. But on Nov. 22, the Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health said restaurants now must shut down outdoor dining for at least three weeks to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The new rule takes effect at 10 p.m. on Nov. 25. Restaurants can offer takeout and delivery.

It sure seems like the county’s public health officials are singling out the restaurant industry, doesn’t it? And for what?

“What do I think of it? It’s horrible. It’s another punch,” Michael Simhai, the owner of Della Terra, an Italian restaurant that has been open for outdoor dining, told the Los Angeles Times when he learned the news.

Back to the recent data about the recent spread of the virus. Fox Business also reported that not only were restaurants and bars low on the list of causing the virus transmissions, but that 7.27% of the cases were traced back to government agencies!

During a press conference Nov. 23, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, noted that Los Angeles County had 6,124 new cases of coronavirus on that day, the highest weekly spike in cases she has seen throughout the pandemic. Ferrer said there was a 61% increase in hospitalization between Nov. 7 and Nov. 20, a pace of increase that “could potentially lead to overwhelming the healthcare system.” She said that while most restaurants have complied with safety mandates, about 20% of them have had “issues,” mainly regarding social distancing.

But when Ferrer was asked during the press conference how many people became infected by dining outside at a restaurant, she said she didn’t have the concrete data in front of her to answer the question.

Really? Pull my other leg, it plays “Jingle Bells.”

California Congressman Doug LaMalfa told Fox Business that the government is “not really applying common sense to where spreads are coming from” despite claims that they are following the science.

LaMalfa is spot on. Throughout the pandemic, government leaders from across the country have continually moved the goal posts in regard to managing the pandemic, especially when it comes to restaurants. One day, it’s the gatherings at Uncle Fred’s and Aunt Barb’s house that are causing outbreaks. The next day, it’s restaurants. The next day, it’s all of the dogs congregrating at the dog park. It just seems like these government leaders are always trying to save face.

Meanwhile, they are ruining businesses and lives in the restaurant industry.

Larry Aylward is the senior vice president of content for the Retail & Hospitality Hub.

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