On Wednesday, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) sent a letter signed by prominent Republican and Democratic Senators asking Governor Gavin Newsom to reclassify the food service industry as critical infrastructure.
The letter said that the reclassification would allow restaurants to reopen to the public with proper COVID-19 precautions. Senator Grove said that in 2019 1.8 million jobs in California were in the restaurant and food service industry, constituting 11% of all jobs in the state. As the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the restaurant industry in California as well as in the U.S. and around the world since March, with little help going to the businesses and employees despite the restaurants being forced to operate as take away and delivery only, many Senators have said that they need to reopen now to be saved.
The letter also points out the beneficial community effects of restaurants, such as working with senior citizen groups and food banks to provide meals, a service that has become especially important during the economic downturn.
“Many restaurants have gone out of business,” notes Senator Grove’s letter. “With the approach of winter and new guidelines that restrict indoor dining, many others will be forced to consider a similar choice.
“Restaurants are active participants in local neighborhoods, providing meals to senior citizens and working with food banks to feed families struggling to put food on their tables. Closed restaurants means jobs lost, missed rent, mortgage and car payments and a lot of unemployment checks.”
In addition to Senator Grove, Senators Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), Brian Jones (R-Santee), Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara), Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff), Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), and Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) signed the document, representing both parties and districts in every region of the state.
“The Senators who signed it is interesting,” said “Dana,” an employee in the Capitol, to the Globe. “You have all 9 Republicans, but you have some Democrats breaking ranks. They are in hard hit areas, but still.”
“It shows you just how much this has been affecting the industry, especially in terms of small business owners and the majority of workers who are Hispanic. The counter to all of this is, of course, COVID, but as the letter points out, this is 11% of jobs in California being affected. That isn’t peanuts.”
“When you have Democrats in California starting to side with Republicans on something divisive, heads turn. And this letter may just be the beginning. When COVID rates get better and you have restaurants still closing, you can bet that a lot more Senators from swing districts, high Hispanic population districts, and Los Angeles districts, due to the high number of restaurants there, might join up. This can really snowball if Governor Newsom just ignores it.”
As of Thursday, restaurant classifications have not changed in the state.