Spring is still almost two months away and the country is still in the midst of the long-predicted winter surge in COVID-19 infections. The severity of restrictions imposed on businesses — including eating places — ebbs and flows as local cases decrease or grow, but in no corner of America are restaurants operating at anything close to full capacity. (These are the latest restaurant reopening restrictions in every state.)
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) reports that about 110,000 foodservice establishments of various kinds — everything from fast-food outlets to upscale gastronomic destinations — have gone under around the U.S. since the advent of the pandemic. In addition, they note, almost three-quarters of the operators of those establishments do not plan to reopen another place.
There is some cause for optimism, however. The NRA also predicts that 2021 will be better for restaurants than last year was, and Nation’s Restaurant News, a leading trade journal, expects that “pent-up consumer demand will create a mad rush once things get back to normal.” (The publication remains a good source for the latest information on how COVID-19 is affecting the restaurant industry.)
In the meantime, though, restaurants on every level around the land are continuing to give up. Takeout and delivery and jerry-rigged semi-outdoor dining enclosures can only go so far. Many restaurateurs are simply exhausted from trying to keep their enterprises going — or have run out of money to pay staff and rent — and are making the decision to close down.
Sometimes whole chains are failing, like Friendly’s on the East Coast and Luby’s across Texas. So are Michelin-starred establishments like Dialogue and Trois Mec in Los Angeles as well as such longtime dining icons as K-Paul’s in New Orleans and “21” in New York City.
Even longevity doesn’t help. Places that have survived wars and economic downturns — not just “21” (founded in 1930) but places like the 97-year-old Sokolowski’s University Inn in Cleveland and the centenarian Pacific Dining Car in Los Angeles — have also closed their doors definitively. (These are the saddest restaurant closings of 2020.)
24/7 Tempo has been tracking permanent restaurant closures around America since last May, with regular updates. In a few cases, there are factors other than the coronavirus in play, but the economic hardship caused by stay-at-home orders, capacity limits, and other constraints has exacerbated lease disputes, personnel issues, and other problems that might also have contributed to the decision to close.
This latest edition of our report covers now-defunct popular establishments in 24 states and the nation’s capital. Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that more noted restaurants will be added to this list as the weeks go by.