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1,000+ Restaurants & Bars Could Close for Good in Iowa Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Industry Association Predicts

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The president of the Iowa Restaurant Association, Jessica Dunker, said the hospitality industry has seen an 84% drop in revenue on average, and more than 80% of bar and restaurant owners have laid-off employees.

Dunker said rural areas will suffer the most.

“In small communities where people have already operated, essentially as a lifestyle in the hospitality industry, there’s not enough money in it to make it anything but a lifestyle choice for a family to operate a small hospitality establishment that profit margins at 5% or about $100 a day of net profit. No one’s going to come in and fill that gap,” Dunker said.

There are just under 6,300 bars and restaurants in the state. The Iowa Restaurant Association predicts that number will drop to 5,000 pretty quickly.

So they’ve put in place the Iowa Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, where 100% of donations will go towards assisting employees who may have been laid off and are struggling to get unemployment benefits. Dunker said their current, Future Ready Iowa Grant will also be used to keep people in the industry.

“At the end of the day, people have to work and pay their bills and when you’re the industry that is literally on the frontlines of the economic crisis, it will cause pause,” Dunker said. “And we will struggle to attract both our current workforce and talent back, as well as folks in the future.”

The governor and the Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division have put relaxed alcohol laws in place both from the standpoint of sale and delivery to support bars. The Iowa Department of Revenue has done tax deferrals for local restaurants. The state has put in place small relief programs for small businesses at the federal level. However, even with these efforts, the Iowa Restaurant Association said these businesses are in desperate need of more help.

“We can’t survive unless we get large amounts of relief in the form of grants that will probably have to come at the federal and state level. We’ve probably already lost about 1,000 locations permanently across the state. There’s just no recovery for some,” Dunker said.

Dunker said the hospitality industry is at the forefront of this economic crisis, but they’re not alone in this fight.

“We’re the tip of the spear, but the small retailers are going to be right behind us. The boutiques, the things that really make, Iowa, Iowa, Dunker said. “ They’re going to be all hurting as well and finding ways to collaborate. I think that the will of our state is really shining through in that regard.”

Click this link to donate to the Iowa Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

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