Struggling NC restaurants fight for congressional help after court victory

A judge ruled 16 North Carolina restaurants were entitled to payouts

North Carolina restaurants ravaged during the coronavirus pandemic are pushing Congress to move past partisan gridlock and help them in their fight to survive.

The Tarheel State businesses, like dining establishments across the country, have been drained of financial resources by restrictions meant to curb the spread of a disease that has killed more than 300,000 Americans over the past nine months.


According to a National Restaurant Association study, nearly 17% of all U.S. restaurants -- more than 110,000 businesses -- have closed long-term or permanently. States such as California have halted even outdoor dining, and in North Carolina, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper imposed a stay-at-home order with a curfew.

Some of the most prominent owners have responded by joining with Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Deborah Ross, and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer this month to air their grievances and push for the $120 billion Restaurants Act.

Gov. Roy Cooper removes his mask before speaking during a briefing on North Carolina's coronavirus pandemic response Tuesday, Dec.22, 2020 at the N.C. Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

While the need is overwhelming, efforts to provide sufficient financial aid to American businesses have long been stymied by partisan political bickering.

This week has been no different, though the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to boost future stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 at the request of President Trump,

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked a quick vote in the upper chamber, however, and introduced his own version, containing poison pills likely to sink the effort.

Restaurateurs say the Restaurants Act would keep them afloat a little longer, though for many, additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) money is too little, too late.

However, a $325 billion package is better than nothing for restaurants and small businesses alike.

As the Associated Press reported last week, the new aid would let small businesses take a tax deduction for expenses paid for with PPP money and restaurants and hotels can obtain loans worth up to 3.5 times their payroll expenses.

Nevertheless, owners told The News & Observer earlier this month that they need Congress to guarantee loan forgiveness and that more debt is not the answer.

In a victorious court battle with property insurers, a state judge found that 16 North Carolina restaurants were entitled to payouts under business-interruption coverage.


The win is keeping hope alive for hundreds of small business lawsuits across the country, though -- as The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday -- courts have largely backed insurers.

Though losses for the 16 restaurants are not precisely tallied, they could total $10 million.