Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito: Local restaurants face ‘mass extinction’ with coronavirus closures

'This is a dire, dire time in the history of restaurants'

New York City needs to open indoor dining before restaurants go "extinct" due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus lockdown, Cleo Executive Chef Rocco DiSpirito told "Varney & Co." Wednesday.

Continue Reading Below

The lockdown is a "mystery to all of us," the celebrity chef told host Stuart Varney.

"This is a dire, dire time in the history of restaurants. I would've never imagined it would come to this," DiSpirito said.

RESTAURANT CLOSINGS CAN DOUBLE WITHIN NEXT 3 MONTHS, INVESTMENT COMPANY CEO WARNS

"We're talking about tens of millions of jobs," he explained. "The independent restaurant community is the largest employer in the United States besides the federal government, and up and down the supply chain we're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars and cash flowing in and out of restaurants."

The celebrity chef is one of more than 300 restauranteurs in a class-action lawsuit seeking over $2 billion in damages due to the city’s ongoing indoor dining ban, Eater NY reports.

NY WEDDING VENUES SUE CUOMO FOR SAME RIGHTS AS RESTAURANTS AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

He's also pushing Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act, seeking $150 billion in aid, "because otherwise, we're looking at a mass extinction event of 50 to 80% of independent restaurants going bye-bye forever," he said.

He said he opened up a pop-up in Midtown East called "Cleo" to take advantage of outdoor dining only, but it is only a temporary solution.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

"We're really hoping New York will follow New Jersey's lead and open indoor dining for at least 25% capacity very soon. The time is now. We cannot afford to wait any longer."

Varney pushed back saying that opening a restaurant with a quarter capacity isn't profitable, but DiSpirito said it's a start, adding that with the reopening of schools or other businesses, it should be possible.

"We're, I think, one of the only cities left in the country where we can't do some sort of indoor dining," he said.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS