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Opinion: Restaurants, clubs feeling the pain from COVID-related decisions

An 11 p.m. curfew intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is hurting Oklahoma’s restaurants and clubs. Several bar owners are challenging the state’s authority to enforce the rule, which the head of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association said his group supports because the goal is to survive.

But meeting that goal is becoming more difficult for some, as a story by The Oklahoman’s Josh Dulaney and David Dishman highlighted.

They interviewed Erik Deloera, proprieter of Senor Shots, a club in Bricktown, and owner of two San Marcos Mexican restaurants. “I try to stay strong for my employees, but if it goes past January I don’t think we are going to be open,” Deloera said.

Steve Brack, owner of Western Nights, said he is mulling whether to close. Brack wonders why the changes implemented last month didn't include a plan from Gov. Kevin Stitt or Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt to help businesses financially.

“None of this makes any sense,” he said. “I cannot fathom our industry being targeted like this. … Why was there not a plan in place? We need answers. Where is the help?”

That refrain is being repeated across the country. In New York City, restaurant owners and industry workers took to the streets last week to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new ban on indoor dining.

Cuomo cited a steep rise in the Big Apple’s coronavirus-related hospitalization rate in recent weeks, although the state’s contact tracing data showed restaurants and bars accounted for a small percentage of recent known COVID-19 exposures.

Cuomo's new ban took effect Monday but it was unclear how long it would last. Andreas Koutsoudakis Jr., owner of a popular New York restaurant and whose father died of COVID-19 complications early in the pandemic, no doubt spoke for many colleagues during an interview on Fox News’ “Your World” with Neil Cavuto.

“I’ve now changed my reopening date three times,” he said. “What’s worse, I’ve rehired 35 employees ... All the good things that come with getting people excited about the future, and I’ve had to cancel it three times.”

He continued, with a message aimed at federal lawmakers.

“The restaurant industry needs a vaccine. … This country is built on small businesses. It’s built on the creativity, the hospitality, the care of those restaurants. Without them this is no longer the land of the free, the land of opportunity. …

“This is not about not believing COVID. … I’m not arguing against whether this is valid or not. I’m arguing for transparency, for communication," he said. "Either we’re a team or we’re not. Republicans, Democrats, I really don’t care which side you’re on. What matters here is that you look at who is there through thick and thin, and that’s small-business restaurants, small businesses. Don’t just put a Band-Aid and say, ‘We’ll figure out the rest later.’ Solve a problem.”

The pain is real. The relief, not so much.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›