A group of independent Memphis restaurant owners has released a letter to the media addressed to Alisa Haushalter, head of the Shelby County Health Department. The letter offers a number of suggestions for changes that would enable restaurants to better operate under COVID-19 conditions, and suggests that Memphis Restaurant Association has not adequately shared the "unique challenges" facing independent restaurants. The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Director Haushalter,
We hope that you, your family, and your colleagues are safe during these unprecedented and stressful times.
We understand the herculean task that faces you and your organization and we appreciate the thankless efforts you continue to make in your effort to keep Shelby County safe for everyone while keeping our industry and its workforce as sustainable as it can be.
We feel that the Memphis Restaurant Association leadership has not been willing or able to share with you the unique challenges facing the independent sector of our industry. Despite our many attempts to work with the MRA to develop a platform that represents the needs and positions of our independent owners and those in our employ, we have collectively made the decision to reach out to you directly to offer some insight as to what our thoughts and concerns are, and, if you’ll take it, an offer to be of assistance as you navigate this crisis in the upcoming months. We, like all business owners, want to keep our employees safe and financially secure, our guests safe and fed, and our businesses sustainable. We are eager to work with you so we can, together, achieve that goal. We’ve outlined our positions below.
We would like to get clear science based guidelines consistent with CDC recommendations and follow them.
We recognize the value of wearing masks and fully support the order that requires it. We also feel that promoting and adhering to the mask order is in fact being pro-small business.
While we support the occupancy restrictions placed on restaurants we would like you to explore the possibility of full service restaurants being able to utilize their bar areas to serve meals while adhering to the social distancing, alcohol restrictions and time restraint directives that are currently in place (even if more stringent than the regulations at tables). For some of us these bar areas constitute a large percentage of our available seating and are vital for our ability to remain open.
Regular testing is vital for our industry, as our contact with large amounts of people at distances closer than recommended is high. Our employees need to have access to same day testing appointments and same day results so we can utilize more effectively and fully commit to our role in the current county wide contact tracing program. A program we fully support.
We understand that following protocol set forth is the only way to see our businesses and the jobs they create and support (both internally and through the chain of supplies and entertainment that we symbiotically count on) survive.
We do not envy the position you are in and are all very much aware that the needs of your various constituencies can be quite different and sometimes contradictory. We do feel that we could be a strong asset to you when you do have to make decisions that affect our businesses and employees and our ability to fulfill our obligation to help keep the public healthy and nourished.
We are all in this together and we stand willing and eager to help you in any way that you may see fit.
Colleen DePete & José Gutierrez
Jaquila & Erling Jensen
Deni & Patrick Reilly
Rebecca & Jason Severs