The operator of a celebrated New Orleans restaurant today urged members of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee to take action quickly to save restaurants and their employees before Congress adjourns in November.

Melvin Rodrigue is president and CEO of Galatoire’s Restaurant, a James Beard Award-winning bistro located on Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter, and the board chair of the National Restaurant Association.

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In his testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, he testified that “virtually every kind of restaurant is suffering” and the industry needs “a federal support plan that appreciates this and doesn’t pick winners and losers based on a business model.”

“Restaurant owners are making business decisions for October based on the actions you take today,” he said. “I implore you—please take action before leaving town for the elections. If Congress adjourns without extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or providing other enhanced relief, more restaurants will close, more employees will lose their jobs and the pandemic economic crisis will deepen.”

He noted that restaurants have suffered more losses in dollars and jobs than any other industry. “What restaurants and their employees need is targeted help for the nation’s second-largest private sector employer,” he added.

Melvin Rodrigue

Rodrigue reiterated the National Restaurant Association’s call for Congress to consider short-term assistance, such as a second round of the PPP, with greater flexibility for both operating expenses and payroll outlays.

He also encouraged the subcommittee to consider long-term tools from the Association’s Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, including:

  • Passing the Senate version of the RESTAURANTS Act, which takes a balanced approach to support independent and locally owned franchise restaurants
  • Ensuring that business expenses paid from PPP proceeds are tax-deductible
  • Enacting a refundable tax credit to cover investments in equipment and safety programs and to set up social distancing amidst a crippling economic climate
  • Enhancing the Employee Retention Tax Credit

“Restaurants and our employees have a personal connection with customers,” Rodrigue said. “In some towns, it’s a small chain; in some towns, it’s a beloved local restaurant. But every one of you, and every American, has a place that is their favorite. Regardless of the name on the door, restaurants are community cornerstones that provide a ladder of opportunity for employees.”

Related: New York to reopen indoor dining at 25-percent capacity

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