- - Thursday, December 17, 2020

America needs to be ‘Open for Business!’ It’s time to stand up to the liberals and say enough is enough. In New York, indoor dining ended as of 10 o’clock on Sunday night. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is talking about closing down the entire state.

Think about this: A recent survey of 6,000 restaurants conducted for the New York State Restaurant Association found that half of the restaurants in the state will not survive the next six months without help from the government. Most would prefer to have the option to stay open and not take assistance. Unfortunately, they are not likely to get either option.

Contact tracing data from Mr. Cuomo’s office shows that banning indoor dining will have minimal impact on new coronavirus cases. The data shows that of the 46,000 cases between September and November, less than one-and-a-half percent could be linked to restaurants and bars. That is a stark contrast to the 73.84% that are connected to private gatherings in New York.

Ironically, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claims to be a champion of the hard-working people in the food and beverage industry, yet she has been silent as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mr. Cuomo seem set on closing down many restaurants and bars for good. Workers are crying out for help.

Nationally, the restaurant industry saw its recovery stall last month as eating and drinking places lost a net of 17,400 jobs in November on a seasonally-adjusted basis. The industry is 2.1 million jobs below the pre-pandemic level.

Those job numbers represent real people with real families who are hurting. My wife Tonette’s family knows what it is like to depend on a job in the food and beverage industry. When we first met, she was working part-time at a bar and grill to supplement her full-time employment. Her father ran a number of different restaurants and taverns over the years. And her mother worked for many years as a waitress. Losing one of these jobs hurt the entire family.

Closing down restaurants and bars also impacts young people who are just entering the workforce. My first job as a kid was washing dishes at the Countryside Restaurant. Later, I flipped hamburgers at McDonald’s during high school to save up for college.

Tonette and I have two sons. Matt’s first job was working at Pizzeria Piccola in the Village of Wauwatosa. Alex started out at Gille’s Custard Stand a few blocks from our home. Both of our sons were active in sports and extracurricular activities. Other parents often asked why we made them have a job. The answer was simple: They needed to learn how to work.

Jobs like this taught each of us how to work hard and how to value hard work. Shutting down restaurants and other small businesses is not only devastating to current employees, but it’s also hurting the work ethic of future generations.

A National Restaurant Association survey last month found that fully one-half of restaurant owners expect their staffing levels to decline during the next three months and the number rises to nearly 60% for full service operations. That is significant as the total restaurant and food service workforce is about 15.6 million Americans.

Eating and drinking place sales remain more than $12 billion (19%) below where they were at the beginning of 2020. Now, 83% of full-service operators say they expect their sales to decrease during the next three months.

Between March and November, eating and drinking place cumulative sales are down nearly $192 billion from expected levels. Add in non-restaurant food service operations — in the lodging, arts, entertainment and recreation along with education, health care and retail sectors — and the reduction in sales is down $235 billion.

As if things were not bad enough, liberals in Congress seem more intent on forgiving college loans than passing plans to extend the Paycheck Protection Program or other initiatives to help small businesses that have been shut down during the pandemic. They seem more interested in bailing out student loans than helping workers.

Trying telling a bartender, waiter or waitress that their taxes will go up so woke students can write off their loans for graduate degrees they can never use to find employment outside of a college campus. Talk about a fairness issue.

Like my family, many of you were waiters or waitresses, bartenders and cooks, servers and busboys, dishwashers and managers. We salute you. Now it is time to help the people currently working in the industry.

With that in mind, I am looking for more ways to dine out or, at least, order out this time of year. And if you are able, join me in increasing your tip to spread the Christmas cheer. Let’s get America working again!

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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