More Pa. restaurants closed in 2020 than U.S. average, though still fewer than expected


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New data from the National Restaurant Association shows that a smaller number of restaurants closed permanently during the pandemic than anticipated.

The association finds that 14% of restaurants nationwide closed permanently last year. At the height of the pandemic, industry experts predicted that 30% to 75% of restaurants could go out of business within a year.

However, says Ben Fileccia of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, "Those numbers aren't reflective of Pennsylvania," he said.

He says it's not time to celebrate just yet.

Fileccia says Pennsylvania enacted relatively strict pandemic-related mitigation than many other states. And Philadelphia in particular did not allow restaurants to open as much or for as long as other parts of the state.

"There were big chunks of time where restaurants were only doing delivery, take out and curbside pickup."

In Pennsylvania, he says, "we're tracking at about 20% of restaurants that have closed permanently."

And he says, since economic recovery takes a long time, that number may yet increase.

"Just because somebody has been able to survive for the past 14 months, doesn't mean that the next 12 months is going to be easy for them," he said.

But even if 20% of restaurants in the state went out of business last year, Fileccia says, that's still a lower figure than anticipated. This is likely because of state and federal grants made available during the pandemic, and support from loyal customers.

"The fact that that number is 20% and not 30% as predicted or 70% as predicted ... shows the resilience of a lot of these operators and the help from PPP and from the state and from the city," Fileccia said.

He says business subsidies have been crucial to keeping the industry afloat.

"The American Rescue Plan Act established their Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide restaurants and other eligible businesses help keep their doors open."

But as governments throughout the country drop more and more COVID-19 restrictions, those assistance programs are coming to an end. The Small Business Administration will close down the Restaurant Revitalization Award Portal on Monday, May 24, at 8 p.m.

"Anybody who is looking to apply for money from the [Restaurant Revitalization Fund] needs to do that over this weekend, at the latest," he said.

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