At a roundtable event with restaurant executives on Monday (May 18), several executives put forward a request to President Donald Trump and cabinet officials to extend the deadline they have to use their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan funds with full forgiveness, from the eight weeks it’s at currently to 24 weeks.
The deadline would hypothetically be moved from June 30 to October 31, if the government takes their advice.
The roundtable was intended to check in with executives as the pandemic continues and states try to reopen and get things back in order after months of shutdowns. Many states are starting to allow limited dine-in services at restaurants as restrictions are rolled back.
The PPP, intended to provide relief to struggling restaurants during the crisis so they can retain employees on payroll, was working for the executives in attendance. But they said the problem was that eight weeks might not be enough to get back on track fully, with people still largely avoiding going out and thus reducing demand on restaurants unable to survive on take-out orders.
“We need to give our smaller restaurants the opportunity to open, to have demand, to bring back the employees,” said Marvin Irby, CEO of the National Restaurant Association.
“How about 75 weeks?” Trump asked. “I know some of you, you’ll never stop.”
José Cil, CEO of Restaurant Brands International, concurred, saying it would “take some time for restaurants to get back to the capacity levels we were seeing pre-COVID.”
And Will Guidara, co-owner of hospitality group Make It Nice, echoed the others, saying Trump’s other proposal of bringing deductibility for corporations using restaurants and entertainment venues back as a policy was “amazing,” but he wanted to “build the house first” and get restaurants operating properly again before worrying about benefits.
Cil also spoke of business liability protections, another issue that has cropped up as states moved toward reopening. He said there was potential for lawsuits to crop up against restaurants for various complications involving the pandemic.
“We think business liability protection for small businesses is important,” he said. “We’re going see potentially with the reopening of the economy, with the reopening of small restaurants, frivolous and unfounded lawsuits against the restaurant owners, against small businesses that are trying to do the right thing, trying to survive and trying to keep their businesses going.”
The final point Cil brought to the table was that restaurants should get more funds to keep alive during the crisis due to the massive shock that has left them with unknown fates.
“I think the restaurant industry as a whole participated to the tune of about 9% of the PPP,” he said. “And we think there should be additional funds available for us to be able to weather and continue to weather the storm.”