Many hotels were looking forward to a promising year-end holiday business towards the end of 2021, but it was not to be as Omicron came on the scene. Melissa Buchholz, owner of Milwaukee restaurant says “Omicron hit us upside the head”.
For many in the hospitality industry the December and January crash was a nerve-wracking disappointment as many had high hopes of a good business during this time after a tough period lasting almost 2 years since the start of the Covid19 pandemic in 2020.
Nationally, the Independent Restaurant Association, a trade group for locally owned establishments, reported that nearly three out of five-member businesses saw sales fall by more than half in December 2021. Four out of five cut their hours of operation.
“The economic devastation that happened to our industry starting back in 2020 is still wearing on a lot of folks,” says Susan Quam, Wisconsin Restaurant Association executive vice president.
While there were differences from one part of the state to another, the omicron effect was widespread throughout the nation. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a grant program included in the American Rescue Plan Act passed last year, was soon depleted due to a flood of early applications.
Shawn Phetteplace, regional manager for Main Street Alliance, a small business advocacy group that has several independent eateries among its members, says the organization is keeping a close eye on legislative deliberations in Washington that might replenish the fund.