Inside Indiana Business
INDIANAPOLIS – The coronavirus pandemic could end up wiping out half of Indiana’s restaurants.
One in five restaurants in Indiana have already closed, two-to-four times the normal rate. A National
Restaurant Association survey finds another third expect to go under by June unless there’s a
second round of federal help. The survey says they’ve already cut one-sixth of their jobs in the last
Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association president Patrick Tamm says the first relief bill helped
many restaurants stay afloat. He praises Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett for earmarking $11 million
dollars of the city’s federal money for rent and mortgage assistance for restaurants. Tamm says
nearly two-thirds of restaurants’ expenses are overhead costs they have to pay whether they’re
packed or empty, with rent and mortgage payments the biggest chunk.
But Tamm says the federal help amounted to two months of help for a crisis that’s lasted eight
months so far. He says the restaurant business has never really recovered since the start of the
pandemic. Even though state capacity limits on restaurants and other businesses have been lifted,
he says they’re still effectively capped at half capacity because of the need for social distancing. And
the skyrocketing spread of coronavirus is prompting many customers to just stay home.
Tamm says business has been noticeably declining over the last month as winter delivers a one-two
punch. Customers have taken note as the virus spirals to new highs — Indiana has averaged seven-
thousand new cases a day over the last week, with health experts predicting the numbers will
continue to increase. And the arrival of cold weather reduces the feasibility of safer outdoor dining. A
second Indianapolis grant program offered help to restaurants to install heaters, and Tamm says
some restaurants have gotten creative, constructing igloos or installing giant storage pods in their
parking lots. But Tamm says when the temperature dips below a certain point, those measures
aren’t enough to coax people out of their houses.
Pizza, quick-service and fast-casual restaurants have weathered the pandemic with drive-thru and takeout service, but he said family dining and independent upscale restaurants are getting hammered by both the general reluctance to eat out and the cancellation of office holiday parties, concerts, and other events that draw visitors to Indiana’s downtowns.