"I'm not normally one to post here," Detroit restaurant owner-chef Brad Greenhill says on Facebook, a place he typically finds divisive. The food entrepreneur behind Katoi and Magnet speaks out there to sound an alarm:
"We are currently witnessing our entire industry and those that supply it go down in flames, potentially with irreparable long-term damage. Damage that wasn't caused by reckless lending practices or a generation of poor business and manufacturing decisions, but rather by doing what we have always done: serving our community."
He refers, of course, to Monday afternoon's state-ordered ban on indoor dining and drinking in restaurants, clubs and banquet halls for at least two weeks. "We all recognize that the shutdowns could (and probably should) extend for months," he writes in a post shared over 170 times in two days.
The financial wounds cut deep for "hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan," adds the star chef, who opened Katoi (now Takoi) on Michigan Avenue in August 2014 and Magnet on Grand River Avenue last September.
Here's more from his 500-word cri de coeur, also posted today at Detour Detroit with two introductory paragraphs added:
We are not an industry with deep coffers or powerful political connections. Rather, we are the embodiment of the working class.
We operate on incredibly slim margins and at this time of year, we are usually just a couple bad weeks away from closure, layoffs or finding new or inventive ways to finance to keep our teams working.
While the community rallying to help is amazing and greatly appreciated (thank you!), this is not a crisis that we can carryout, deliver, GoFundMe and gift card drive our way out of.
To highlight just how much is at stake, at both Takoi and Magnet our typical payroll liability (including tip wages and taxes) is well over $100,000. That's just two restaurants for two weeks.
Now consider those that supply us. In that same time period, we spend roughly $30,000 on food as well as beer, wine and spirits -- most of which is supplied by other local small producers and farms. Multiply these numbers over thpousands of restaurants and over multiple payroll periods and the numbers start to get huge.
Our industry, if it is to recover, will require a lifeline that will require our collective organization and influence to get both short- and long-term relief from our governments at the city, state and federal levels. Expansion of unemployment benefits is definitely a start, as is waiving payroll taxes and an expansion of Medicare to displaced employees.
However, much more will need to be done after that and together we will collectively need to push for those measures to be taken.
Restaurants are the very fabric of American culture and some of the few remaining types of family businesses that so many paint as the picture of what America represents.
Restaurants are our nourishment and our imbibement. Our work parties, holiday parties, business deals and community meetings. Our birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, first dates and last dates. Restaurants are interwoven in and create memories from childhood to post retirement.
We are always here to serve and we'd love to continue to do so when the madness blows over, but we will all need to work together in order for that to happen.