Social Distancing, One Big Threat to Bar Business

A restaurant stands empty and closed in Brooklyn on May 12, in New York City.

A restaurant stands empty and closed in Brooklyn on May 12, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The US state of Georgia allowed restaurants to reopen on April 27. The three owned by Ryan Pernice are still shuttered.
The entrepreneur hasn't opened his restaurants, Table & Main, Osteria Mattone and Coalition Food & Beverage, since March 16. Pernice is worried about the health of his employees and customers, but there's another reason the restaurants are still shut down: They can't make a profit with social distancing rules in place.
"If you talk to restaurants across the globe, the language might change, but the math is the same," Pernice told CNN Business. "Restaurants and bars need volume and traffic to make them work."
Pernice has been forced to lay off or furlough 80 of his 120 staff. Around the world, millions more restaurant and bar workers have lost their jobs as countries impose strict lockdowns designed to contain the pandemic. Some of those restrictions are now being eased, but restaurants and bars are not being prioritized for reopening because they are viewed as venues where the virus might spread.
Restaurant owners and managers are grappling with the brutal math that underpins their industry. Margins are razor thin, forcing eateries and bars to pack in customers every night, and especially on the weekends, in order to stay afloat. In the toughest markets, that means multiple waves of guests, and tables that are pushed together as closely as possible.
It's a business model that is simply incompatible with social distancing.


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