Barstool Sports capo Dave Portnoy is a controversial figure — but whether you love him or hate him, he’s been right more than a few times. And his latest rant against the shutdown of NYC indoor dining is the latest win for the Internet celebrity.
On December 11, 2020, Portnoy took to his Twitter page to record an epic rant against New York City politicians, taking specific aim at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that shut down indoor dining at restaurants as of Monday, December 14, 2020.
While Cuomo claimed that this move was meant to curb the spiking coronavirus cases in New York City, Portnoy felt that it was an assault on the “working men” in the restaurant industry, whose restaurants were in jeopardy of permanently closing with this new executive order.
“What do they think is going to happen? What do they think is going to happen to thousands of restaurants — they’re done!” he said. “The bar and restaurant industry and small businesses have been squeezed and squeezed and squeezed, and they’ve tried everything.
How do you expect these people to survive? The vaccine is right around the corner. If you’re health-impaired, you’re afraid of it, you’re old, don’t go out. Stay inside for three months, the vaccine is coming. But let people decide!”
Dave Portnoy’s rant is not without its merits.
According to a report released by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry cannot be understated.
In February 2020, just one month before New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 300,000 people were employed in the restaurant industry in various capacities.
Just two month later, that number tumbled to 91,000. Restaurants that stayed open during the height of New York’s stay-at-home orders also saw nearly a nearly 95% drop in revenue from the previous year, and nearly 87% of New York City’s restaurants confirmed that they wouldn’t be able to pay their rent in August 2020.
With the moratorium on commercial foreclosures and evictions getting lifted in October 2020, it’s proving to be increasingly perilous for small restaurant owners. As of September 23rd, 2020, more than one-third of the city’s restaurants and more than one-half of the city’s bars have closed in the wake of the pandemic.
And things aren’t looking better in the near future: according to this same report, one-third to one-half of the city’s restaurants will be closed within the next six months to a year, putting more than 100,000 people at risk of being out of work permanently.
Things aren’t faring any better nationwide, either — even in states with less restrictive pandemic measures. Across the country, about one in six restaurants have closed permanently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 90% of restaurants have said that their revenues have fallen by more than 30% since March of 2020, and expenses continue to rise as sales continue to fall.
And there’s yet another, even more disturbing aspect of Dave Portnoy’s rant: the lack of protections in place for the restaurant industry and the so-called “gig workers” it employs.
In October 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the Restaurants Act of 2020, which promised to infuse more than $120 billion into the restaurant industry.
While that bill showed promise to an ailing industry, it has yet to be passed by Congress — and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be, either.
And because “gig workers” make up the majority of the restaurant industry’s workers, they lack protections such as minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation claims — protections which will keep them from starving in the streets if their restaurant employer closes permanently.
To be fair, however, Governor Cuomo is in a precarious position. On one hand, he needs to balance the public health against the demands of the economy in general, and the restaurant industry in particular.
As the governor of one of the most populous cities in the United States, he cannot afford to make a critical error that cripples Manhattan for years to come.
And this is a sentiment echoed by many of David Portnoy’s detractors (and there are many).
Despite the detractors, however, Portnoy’s rant earned himself a challenge from a high-roller in the industry.
Marcus Lemonis is a businessman who has appeared on NBC’s The Profit, and challenged Dave Portnoy to set up a relief fund for NYC restaurants.
In exchange, Lemonis would commit $500,000 to the same cause. It took a little bit of back and forth, but Portnoy ultimately took Lemonis up on his offer.
But there’s a bigger issue at play here — one which neither Dave Portnoy nor any other talking head seems to recognize. And that play is that restaurants don’t just need money. They need customers.
An infusion of money solves the short-term problem of paying rent, paying employees’ salaries, and paying for ever-increasing costs of goods.
But without customers to purchase these goods — and keep the money flowing back into the communities in which they serve — these restaurants will go belly-up regardless of how much money Portnoy, Lemonis, or any other ‘shark’ infuses into their places.
Our economy is currently wobbling — and we need a proper plan to save the working man instead of bailing out corporations. That is the only way we will be able to survive this pandemic in the long run.