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Indiana restaurant lobby calls for state aid after hospitality employment 'decimated'
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Indiana restaurant lobby calls for state aid after hospitality employment 'decimated'

Area restaurants deal with closures

The Saigon Noodle House in Merrillville, like most other restaurants, is doing carryout service only.

The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association is calling on state lawmakers and Gov. Eric Holcomb to aid them "in a desperate time of need."

To stop the spread of coronavirus, Holcomb ordered the closure of dining rooms in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, forcing them to operate via drive-thru, carryout and delivery only.

“The hospitality industry in Indiana before this pandemic employed 14% of Hoosiers. Now, that number has been decimated,” Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association CEO Patrick Tamm said.

NWI restaurants carry on with carryout, drive-thru options amid coronavirus pandemic

“Our industry has been among the hardest hit economically by this crisis. Hundreds of thousands of employees, restaurant owners, hotel managers and other Hoosiers in the hospitality industry are relying on our state government to aid them in this desperate time of need.”

The lobby for the state's restaurants and hotels is asking for employees affected by COVID-19 shutdowns to be immediately available for unemployment insurance and exempt from the work-search requirement, and for employees to be eligible to take medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act if quarantined by the Department of Health or recommended to do so by a medical professional.

It's also asking for a 12-month interest-free deferral of real and personal property taxes, as well as of sales, food/beverage and innkeeper taxes for hotels and restaurants.

“Restaurants and hotels have had to close their doors. They have been forced to sustain operations unlike ever before,” Tamm said. “They will not be able to survive this economic stop without some assistance. They have always been there to serve us, now it is time we are there for them.”

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Widespread shutdowns have done severe damage to restaurants and hotels, which could linger for some time, Tamm said. Local businesses may need the community's help to survive.

"This will no doubt have a lasting negative impact on local business owners as well as the thousands of employees of these establishments in Indiana," Tamm said.

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"It is a very scary time for these folks, so we're hoping the community is able to come together and participate in the several ways being discussed to help offset this impact on businesses while they are unable to operate at full capacity. Ordering takeout or delivery — directly from the restaurant, buying gift cards for when restaurants reopen and tipping generously are just a few ways Hoosiers can help."

South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Speros Batistatos said leaders needed to understand how dire the situation is and that many businesses may not survive.

"This can't be over soon enough," he said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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