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For indies, the pandemic year meant times of ‘total despair’

A traumatic 12 months coupled with an uncertain future create a chronic sense of unease for independent restaurant operators.


Help is on the way, but well-loved indies keep closing

Despite recent hints of optimism in the industry, restaurants are still struggling. Well-loved independent restaurants continue closing due to the pressures of the pandemic.

St. Patrick's Day 2020 marked the beginning of a year of pandemic shutdowns. But, this year, restaurants are cautiously optimistic they can return to safely celebrating the event. It's a holiday many operators say is the year's biggest business day.

Independent restaurant operators say they are starting to feel hope that the pandemic is easing, given a new federal relief package and increased vaccine distribution.

Restaurants and other businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be the only ones allowed to apply for relief funding for a two-week period starting Wednesday.

The National Restaurant Association called the proposed aid a “game-changer for the tens of thousands of restaurants on the verge of closing.”

The to-go-focused promotion has a record number of participating restaurants, after organizers waived participation fees.

Around the country, operators are organizing large-order food drop-offs at suburban sites to reach far-flung diners in quarantine.

A pandemic necessity is turning into a robust business model for NYC restaurateur Marco Moreira.

R.J. Melman, president of the Chicago-based multi-concept operator, talks about navigating the pandemic, creating new restaurants and the particular challenges of launching virtual brands.

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