NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) – As the coronavirus continues to take a toll on the state, many in the hard-hit hospitality industry are just trying to hang on.
In fact, more than 600 Connecticut restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic.
“This was always a dream of mine that I had for twenty something years, to have my own place,” said Chris Bateman.
For Chris Bateman, a restaurant veteran, this summer it became a reality. He opened up Crafted by Hand Café on Orange Street in New Haven.
“When we started this project, it was the summer, things were looking a little better, people were getting out more,” Bateman said.
Known as a food town, the Elm City saw a number of new restaurants pop up during the pandemic.
But with the coronavirus cases rising, many are worried what the winter months will mean to Connecticut’s food service industry.
“Your rent doesn’t change, your electricity bill doesn’t change, all your normal overhead stays the same, just not enough people to eat,” Bateman said.
In New Haven, Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale closed up its Long Wharf location last month, at the time, citing COVID-19 as a driving factor, realizing it wouldn’t be going away.
“There two different curves I’m trying to bend. One is the COVID spike and the increase in cases, but the other one for us is closures,” said Scott Dolch, Connecticut Restaurant Association.
Scott Dolch, who heads up the Connecticut Restaurant Association says since the pandemic started, the state lost 600 restaurants.
He says rolling back to Phase 2.1 with its curfew and 50 percent capacity had a negative effect and with outdoor dining slowing as it gets colder, the worry now is what will happen if the state goes back and bans indoor dining like it first did in the spring.
“They’re trying to adapt, trying to survive and that’s what this is all about. It’s about survival to see the other side of this pandemic and every little bit helps,” Dolch said.
He says while restaurants are doing everything that they can to keep customers and staff safe, a state grant program or another federal stimulus package would help until that consumer confidence can be built back up.
“I know the governor brough up rainy-day funds, I think these guys need some cash flow to make it. They have a lot of bills piling up,” Dolch said.
“Folks need help. It’s going to be tough to manage. If everything stays the same and not enough people are coming out, I don’t see how anyone can survive,” Bateman said.
While the restaurants are hopeful to see some sort of financial assistance from the state or federal government, they’re also asking patrons to do whatever they can to help them get through this. That’s either going out to eat, getting take out or even buying gift cards.