Dine-in service for restaurants in Phoenix proper went dark on at 8 p.m. on March 18. Tempe was next; more will follow, most likely. Many restaurants switched to takeaway and delivery models, and others had to simply close — though hopefully not for good.
The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, co-owned by Chef Danielle Leoni, closed last week. But it wasn't long before Leoni was back in action.
Leoni initiated the Arizona Small Restaurant Coalition on Saturday, March 21, beginning with a message to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
“Arizona Small Restaurant Coalition represents small independent restaurants in Arizona that are at ground zero of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it reads. “We are calling on you and the State Legislature to take decisive actions to address the impact of this catastrophe on our industry and prevent a total collapse of one of Arizona's greatest economic engines.”
The coalition calls for Ducey to use his emergency powers to:
— Sign legislation that requires insurance companies to provide coverage for small businesses’ business interruption claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Moratorium on commercial evictions and rent abatement for all affected leases.
— Mandate deferments of commercial rent and mortgage payments for all affected properties.
— Mandate forbearance of loan and credit card payments without interest from February 1, 2020, through 90 days after the crisis has been declared over.
— Provided payroll tax relief for 90 days after the crisis has been declared over.
— Eliminate Transaction Privilege Tax payment obligations from February 1, 2020, through 90 days after the crisis has been declared over.
— Defer liquor license renewals deadline until 90 days after the crisis has been declared over.
— Moratorium on credit reporting from now and through 90 days after the crisis has been declared over.
Within 24 hours, more than 550 business owners — mostly local restaurants — had signed the letter.
Governor @dougducey can’t ignore such a big statement from his small businesses. Arizona Small Restaurant Coalition is over 550 strong in just 24 hours. We need to #HitPause & #SaveArizonaHospitality https://t.co/IY1GwRbdCY— Danielle Leoni (@DanielleLeoniAZ) March 23, 2020
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To be clear, Leoni supports the decision made by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego to close bars and restaurants, as she said in a recent interview with KJZZ’s The Show . She states in her letter as well: “While action has been understandably focused on public health, it is equally critical to consider the well-being of small restaurants, as we are a fundamental part of the state's economy.”
This concern is drawn from an estimate by the National Restaurant Association based out of Washington, D.C. The 2020 State of the Restaurant Industry report notes that the restaurant industry is (was) projected to provide 15.6 million restaurant and foodservice jobs this year.
Other signatures include Charlie Levy of Cocina 10 at Crescent Ballroom, Charleen Badman and Pavle Milic of FnB Restaurant, and Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wine Company (as well as numerous other small businesses).
As of the time of this writing, 725 names have been added.