Bleak picture for restaurant and hotel industries among hardest hit by the pandemic

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said up to 25 percent of the roughly 7,500 restaurants in Chicago may never re-open. Without dine-in customers, restaurant revenue is down 71 percent.

SHARE Bleak picture for restaurant and hotel industries among hardest hit by the pandemic
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Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association (left) and Michael Jacobson, President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (right).

Rich Hein & Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Trade groups representing two industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic offered a bleak forecast on Friday of the economic aftermath.

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said up to 25 percent of the roughly 7,500 restaurants that have made Chicago one of the food capitals of the world may never re-open.

Without dine-in customers, restaurant revenue is down 71 percent. And 40 percent of all restaurants aren’t even doing pick-ups and deliveries.  

“It’s not a pretty picture,” Toia told the Sun-Times.

Michael Jacobson, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said he’s expecting over 120,000 layoffs in the hotel industry statewide, with many of those jobs “lost for the long-term.”

With conventions canceled well into the summer and McCormick Place being converted into a 3,000 bed hospital, major hotels like the Hilton Chicago and Sheraton Grand have closed their doors. At those Chicago hotels that do remain open, occupancy rates have dropped to the single-digits.

The bottom line: Both industries need more help.  

The first three phases of the $2 trillion economic stimulus program approved by Congress is nowhere near enough.

“There’s $377 billion put aside. You get your annual average monthly payroll times 2.5 to keep your employees on payroll and also try to pay your rent, mortgage and/or utilities,” Toia said.

“We don’t know how long this is gonna last. I think we’re gonna have to go to a Phase 4 and a Phase 5 of the stimulus bill at the federal level. They’re saying we haven’t even hit the top of the curve yet.”

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Both Toia and Jacobson want property tax bills due this summer to be deferred. It’s all about cash flow.

“Some of our larger downtown hotels are shut down right now. There’s zero revenue coming in the door and $30,000-a-day in property taxes accruing. The math simply doesn’t add up,” Jacobson said

“That’s what’s gonna make a really tough decision for a hotel owner on whether or not to re-open or simply walk away.”

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