The head of the Iowa Restaurant Association says today’s proclamation by the governor could force the permanent closure of hundreds of Iowa eateries and put 80,000 Iowans out of work.
Association President and CEO Jessica Dunker says she understands that this Public Health Disaster Emergency was declared to slow the spread of coronavirus, but says it will cause a “tremendous disruption” in the industry.
Dunker says, “If we do not receive significant aid from the state and from the federal government — and I don’t mean in the form of tax credits or loans, but actual aid packages — we are on the brink of a potential collapse in large swaths of our industry.”
Governor Kim Reynolds’ order temporarily closes all bars and restaurants, except for drive-up, delivery or carry-out, but Dunker says for many establishments, it’ll mean closing their doors for good. “We are, in good times, an industry that has net profits in the range of 5%,” Dunker says. “That means, for the average Iowa restaurant, that is $100 a day of net profit when times are good. When we face significant disruption like this, we can’t last very long.”
The West Des Moines-based association covers 6,300 restaurants and bars in Iowa, which employ 155,000 people. It’s the second-largest private-sector employer in Iowa. Dunker says this order, closing restaurants and bars through at least March 31st, threatens to be disastrous.
“You could potentially look at complete closure permanently for as many as 2,500 to 3,000 of those establishments,” Dunker says. “We’re also expecting that in the next week or week-and-a-half, we’ll see approximately 80,000 from our industry move onto the unemployment rolls in the state.”
She’s appealing to all Iowans to call their favorite restaurants directly and make plans to pick up a meal, or it’s entirely possible the place won’t be open by April.