Over twenty of New York City’s top restaurant groups, including chef Daniel Boulud’s the Dinex Group, Momofuku, Starr Restaurants, and Major Food Group, have banded together to form a new hospitality organization called Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants, according to information sent to Eater via email.
The new organization, which launched publicly on Thursday, March 19, attempts to build a more unified voice for New York City’s restaurant industry in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the city. The goal of Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants, the organizers say, is to synthesize grassroots efforts from relief funds and local legislature petitions, and lay out exactly what restaurants need from the local government in order to survive the COVID-19 catastrophe.
Founding members include representatives from every area of the industry, including fast casual chain Dig, restaurateur Gabriel Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality, Eataly, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant group, chef JJ Johnson’s casual enterprise FieldTrip, and more.
The organization’s eight-point plan for industry relief, laid out on a Change.org petition aimed at state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, calls for rent abatement until the mandated ban on dining in at restaurants and bars is lifted, a suspension of sales and payroll tax through the end of the year, and a “true, mandated hospitality businesses shutdown” — not just a ban on dine-in business — in order to trigger business interruption insurance coverage, for those who have it. The petition had over 1,500 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
The plan echoes similar calls for help that have come from other trade groups. The New York State Restaurant Association has been sending open letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking for tax payment suspension and caps on food delivery fees, and the New York City Hospitality Alliance has published a nine-point support plan that includes pausing rent payments and allowing local license renewals without charging fees. Restaurateurs across the city are independently seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars via disparate GoFundMe pages to support laid-off employees.
“We applaud every effort, dollar, and post to build grassroots support, but we fear that acting as our own agents will not be enough,” says Luke Ostrom, a partner in chef Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality Group and a founding member of the new hospitality organization.
On the national level, President Trump held a call with a dozen restaurant companies to discuss the state of the industry on Tuesday, March 19; no independent restaurateurs were represented in the conversation. In the morning on Thursday, March 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that New York was weighing whether or not to suspend quarterly sales tax payments for small businesses, due on Friday, March 20. A final decision on the matter hasn’t been announced yet.