Democrat’s War on the Restaurant Industry

By Phil Orenstein | February 11, 2023

The middle class is under assault. Democrats are at war with the middle class, the economic engine of a free and prosperous society. Their policies are hostile toward the police, small businesses, cars, private property, and now they’re going after the restaurant industry.

They want to kill the small family restaurant business for good. There’s been a mass exodus out of the city, including restaurants that are either shutting their doors or fleeing NYC. Restaurants in NYC never fully recovered from the shutdowns imposed on “non-essential” businesses during the pandemic. Restaurants were deemed non-essential and thrown under the bus, forgotten, and bankrupted.

A restaurant owner in Bayside, Queens said that in the winter if it snowed once a week in January and February, it took six months for business to recover. But after the lockdowns and enforced mandates, we need 10 years for business to fully recover. The devastating economic consequences of the lockdowns along with the staggering Biden inflation, now make it almost impossible for restaurants to survive.

The Bayside restaurant owner described the damage done by the Biden inflation that caused the prices of eggs, milk, meat, cheese, and all staple foods to soar up to five times the pre-pandemic levels.  He said eggs rose from the pre-pandemic price of $35 per case to $165 per case today. Lettuce rose from $35 to $80, tomatoes from $20 to $60, meat from $8/lb to $18/lb and chicken from $1.40/lb to $3.90/lb. He as well as most other small businesses got low interest loans, from the federal PPP program, which now are practically impossible to repay.

The trials and tribulations of the restaurant industry are further compounded by the constant abuse from city and state agencies. His Bayside restaurant was constantly harassed by the State Liquor Authority always on hand to enforce regulations during the pandemic. He spoke about the times SLA agents threatened to pull his liquor license when they caught more than eight people seated at a table, breaking social distancing rules.  Restaurants in NYC are further hammered by fines and penalties from the hordes of government operatives at their doors from the Department of Health, Fire, Buildings, and Consumer Protection Departments. The arbitrary and discriminatory parking regulations of the Department of Transportation hurt businesses by ticketing potential customers parked in 4 to 7pm no parking zones.  The officials who run these city and state agencies have no idea about the restaurant industry or even how to run a successful business.

Gov. Hochul proposed to outlaw gas stoves during her State of the State speech in early January, urging people to get rid of their gas grills and go electric in order to save the planet. The effect on restaurants would be devastating, according to the Bayside restauranteur. Gas stoves are much more efficient and cheaper than electric. He asked how are restaurants going to afford the enormous expense of converting their equipment to electric?

Labor costs are going through the roof. Minimum wage in NYC is $15 per hour, and dish washers to waitstaff are clamoring for more. It’s still a tight labor market where many people are working from home and haven’t gone back to work since the COVID lockdowns that killed the economy.  People don’t want to go out and eat as much due to rising crime. Restaurants are shutting down, and those that can afford it are moving out of the city. There’s no profit in selling a restaurant, so they just close their doors. Middle class neighborhoods of Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island will become restaurant wastelands, while corporate chains and unhealthy junk food havens, McDonald’s, Popeyes, Taco Bell, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Pizza Hut, and all the rest are thriving. Restaurants that cater to the wealthy will always be ok. Only the family restaurants that cater to the middle class will lose out. Politicians couldn’t care less about the fate of restaurants. Their foremost concern is for the wealthy and the poor members of society, while crushing the middle class.  

Our Bayside restauranteur proposed some urgent solutions to save the restaurant industry:

  1. Restaurants need immediate government assistance in the form of PPP loan forgiveness or deferment of repayment.  
  2. SLA, Health Dept, Buildings Dept, DOT, and all the rest of the city and state agencies should lay off restaurants. Cut draconian regulations, fines, and penalties. Stop penalizing small family restaurants.
  3. City Council needs to enact tax breaks for small restaurants on purchases and income. Also lower sales tax on restaurant foods.
  4. Democrats caused inflation and the economic disaster. The people need to elect Republicans, whose sensible economic policies will halt inflation and bring back economic prosperity and a thriving business environment.

The death of the neighborhood diner and restaurant is the death of the middle class in America. It’s a symptom of the chaos caused by destructive Democrat policies dealing with pandemic lockdowns, crime, and the economy, that created the total breakdown of our quality of life. Democrats are obsessively focused on illegal migrants, perceived racism, and climate change, while citizens who immigrated from every corner of the globe for generations are losing their livelihoods. Killing the restaurant industry is one more nail that the Democrats have hammered into the coffin of the middle class. This is the war on the middle class that Democrats have been waging for 50 years. The most sensible thing is for all citizens to rise up, register to vote if you’re not already registered, and vote every Democrat out of office. Your vote matters and your voice needs to be heard. Make sure you get out to vote on Primary Day and Election Day!

Phil Orenstein is president of the Queens Village Republican Club. Established in 1875, it is America’s oldest Republican Club  www.QVGOP.org. Historian, Jerry Matacotta, founder of the acclaimed History Seminar Series was the advisor for this article.

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