JOIN #TheGreatAmericanTakeout For Seconds on 3/31

America’s restaurants need our help!


The coronavirus poses a significant threat to the future of an industry that employs more than 15 million Americans. That’s why a coalition of restaurants is asking for help.


Tuesday, March 31, we’re asking everyone in America to show their support for the restaurant industry by joining #TheGreatAmericanTakeout and eating at least one delivery or pick-up meal.


Order delivery or takeout from your favorite restaurant and channel your inner ‘foodie’ by sharing your experience/meal with a photo or video across social media with the hashtag #thegreatamericantakeout

Here’s What The $2 Trillion Economic Stimulus Plan Does For Restaurants

Article Originally Posted on
Lisa Jennings | Mar 27, 2020

A massive $2 trillion economic stimulus package designed to offer some relief for the millions of laid off workers and the nation’s small businesses was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday and sent to the President’s desk, where it will likely get his signature.

As passed earlier in the week in the Senate, the bill — dubbed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act — includes a plan to send up to $1,200 in stimulus checks to lower and middle-income Americans to help them cover immediate bills. As of March 21, more than 3 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims, many of them restaurant workers.

A centerpiece of the bill is also designed to help restaurants struggling with the impact of forced dining room closures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Small and medium-sized businesses would be entitled to federal loans that could be forgiven — depending on whether workers remain on the payroll or are re-hired.

The bill would also extend unemployment eligibility to many workers who were previously not entitled to such benefits, including gig workers and independent contractors.

The CARES Act follows the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed by the President earlier this month, which addresses sick and family leave mandates.

Here’s a look at how the CARES Act would impact restaurants, from various legal sources and the National Restaurant Association:

Small business loans: The bill includes a $349 billion program for “paycheck protection” loans to businesses with 500 or fewer workers. The loan amount is based on 250% of the borrower’s average monthly payroll cost (average payroll costs x 2.5) for the preceding year, and provisions for seasonal employers are included, up to $10 million. For example, an employer with an average monthly payroll of $900,000 would be eligible for a loan of $2.25 million.

Waived are collateral requirements and the “credit elsewhere” requirements. The loan is forgiven if the money is used for payroll costs, mortgage interest or rent/utilities. But the amount of forgiveness will be reduced if employers reduce their workforce compared to prior periods, or reduces salary/wages by more than 25% during the covered period between Feb. 15 through June 30.

However, if employers re-hire all employees laid off going back to Feb. 15, or increases previously reduced wages before June 20, the loan can be fully forgiven.

For restaurants and hotels, the 500-employee count is based on the number of workers at each physical location. So a restaurant franchisee or multiconcept group with 600 employees across five properties would still qualify.

These loans are fully guaranteed by the federal government through Dec. 31, 2020, and available through SBA-certified lenders. The deadline to apply is June 30, 2020. (NRA and law firm Fisher Phillips)

Tax benefits: The CARES Act provides a new “employee retention tax credit,” but the credit is not available to employers that take paycheck protection loans.

The credit offers employers a refundable tax credit for 50% of the wages paid during the COVID-19 crisis and applies to wages between March 13 and the end of the year.

Those eligible are employers whose operations were fully or partially suspended due to coronavirus shut-down order, or whose gross receipts declined by more than 50% compared to the same quarter the previous year.

The tax credit applies to the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee based on qualified wages. For employers with more than 100 full-time workers, “qualified wages” may include contributions to health insurance costs, but it excludes amounts for which the employer already received a tax credit. For those with fewer than 100 employees, all employee wages count, regardless of whether the business is open during the dine-in shut-down.

The Act also offers a payroll social security tax “holiday” for employers with immediate cash-flow issues. Deferred taxes must be paid over the next two years, and at least half by Dec. 31, 2021. (Fisher Phillips)

The bill also relaxes limitations on a company’s use of losses. Net Operating Losses, or NOL, are currently subject to a taxable-income limitation and they cannot be carried back to reduce income in a prior tax year. The bill allows an NOL arising in tax year beginning in 2018, 2019 or 2020 to be carried back five years. It also temporarily removes the taxable income limitation to allow an NOL to fully offset income. (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman).

Unemployment Insurance: The legislation creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that expands federal benefits to those not traditionally eligible, including the self-employed, independent contractors and those with a limited work history. Benefits are available for those who are unemployed, partially unemployed or unable to work. It also adds $600 per week in benefits, on top of benefits already available under federal or state programs, for four months. (Pillsbury).

Quality Improvement Property, or QIP fix: Restaurants will be able to write off costs associated with improving facilities with this retroactive amendment to the bonus depreciation rules. Sometimes called the “retail glitch,” industry groups, including the NRA, have been pushing for this correction to the 2017 Tax Act. (Pillsbury)

Contact Lisa Jennings at

US Chamber of Commerce CARES Act – Guide & Checklist

March 31, 2020 – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses.


Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.


The administration soon will release more details including the list of lenders offering loans under the program. In the meantime, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has issued this guide to help small businesses and self-employed individuals prepare to file for a loan.


Here are the questions you may be asking—and what you need to know.

CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY LOANS – Small Business Guide and Checklist

Update on COVID-19 Impact on Commercial Real Estate Clients

March 31, 2020 – Hartman Simons & Wood


Faced with the unprecedented fall out from COVID-19, our real estate owners, landlords, tenants, lenders, borrowers and other clients are making real-time decisions based on the economic, governmental, public health and legal realities of the current situation.  The environment is ever-evolving.  In some instances, government authorities have mandated the closure of businesses.  More mandated closures may be forthcoming.  Office buildings are empty as employees work from home, malls are shuttered, and many retail tenants are not operating.   Tenants are deciding whether to pay next month’s rent, and many are already proactively requesting rent abatement from their landlords.  Landlords have ongoing expenses and must pay their lenders, who are also fielding requests for payment deferrals and loan extensions.  Nevertheless, mass evictions and foreclosures are not the preferred outcome (and evictions themselves have been put on hold by courts in many jurisdictions.)  To assist with the difficult decisions faced by our clients at this time, we wanted to provide some context for the current legal framework within which these negotiations will likely play out.




Force majeure, a once obscure legal doctrine that is Latin for “superior force”, is a hot topic.  Many commercial leases contain force majeure clauses which may or may not be mutual and may favor one party over the other. The typical force majeure clause excuses a party’s nonperformance if based on an “act of God” or an improbable, external, uncontrollable event preventing performance.[1]  Even if mutual, many force majeure clauses require a tenant to continue paying rent while excusing performance of other terms of the lease.  Yes, a tenant might be excused from operating, but a landlord may assert force majeure to excuse delivery obligations, co-tenancy provisions, exclusives, and the like.


Each situation is different, but for force majeure relief to be available, there must be a direct causal link between the unforeseen event and the nonperformance.  For example, force majeure is likely applicable where a business is unable to obtain supplies necessary to operate its business or complete construction, but not where the mere threat of the virus is causing a shut down.  Documenting and retaining any evidence demonstrating the causal link between COVID-19 and any inability to perform is important.  Thus, in the example above, the business should request and retain communications from its suppliers documenting the unavailability of supplies due to COVID-19.


In the commercial leasing context, courts typically enforce the lease agreement as written.  Most force majeure provisions do not directly address a pandemic or public health emergency, but many such clauses reference governmental action and include a catch-all provision such as “other matters outside the reasonable control of the party.”  While there is little case law in most jurisdictions regarding the interpretation of force majeure provisions, and some courts have been loath to excuse a party’s nonperformance where the event is not specifically listed in the force majeure provision, there may well be pressure on courts to reevaluate this position and construe force majeure clauses more broadly than prior decisions would suggest.


Finally on this point, landlords and tenants should be careful to comply with any notice requirements of a commercial lease when invoking a force majeure provision.  A party may not be able to excuse performance due to force majeure if it does not provide sufficient and timely notice.  Even if not expressly required by the lease, a party would be wise to give prompt notice of the force majeure event.  Going forward, for any new leases or lease amendments, we recommend including the following events in the force majeure provision:  “outbreak of disease, epidemic, pandemic, or other declaration of public health emergency and quarantine restrictions.”




Other lease provisions have also been recent topics of discussion amongst our attorneys.  In the case of a government-mandated closure, the parties must comply with the law, and a lease generally requires the tenant do so.  Accordingly, a government mandate may excuse or postpone a landlord’s meeting of a delivery date or tenant’s performance under a continuous operation covenant or a requirement to open for business.


Many leases set forth a covenant of tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the leased premises.  Quiet enjoyment typically means the undisturbed right to enjoy the premises free of hostile claimants.  Some tenants may argue that COVID-19 and its effects have interfered with their right quiet enjoyment rights.  Even so, many commercial leases do not provide an unfettered right of quiet enjoyment; rather a tenant may only excuse performance if the landlord or landlord’s agents interfere with a tenant’s right of quiet enjoyment, in which case the general effects of COVID-19 have nothing to do with landlord.


There are casualty clauses in most commercial leases, and many tenants may seek relief under these provisions. These clauses, however, typically address situations where the leased premises is damaged due to fire or natural disaster and contemplate a period of time when it is uninhabitable, but being restored.  Insurance is often involved.  The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may inhibit the productive use of leased premises, but they have not damaged most leased premises, there will be no period of restoration, and many commercial property and business insurance policies do not cover the impacts of  a disease or virus outbreak (see below).


Tenants may also contend that the effects of COVID-19, including government-mandated closures, constitute an event of eminent domain that permits the abatement of rent or altogether termination of the lease.  Eminent domain, however, typically involves a government “taking” of property for a public purpose in exchange for which just and adequate compensation is paid.  Here, it may be a stretch to argue that a mandated closure constitutes a public appropriation of private property.  Indeed, there are no reports of governmental payments equivalent to just and adequate compensation to landlords who shutter office buildings, malls, shopping centers, etc.


Under the typical lease, rent is due without notice, demand or setoff and, legally, is considered an independent covenant.  As a result, the tenant has an ongoing obligation to pay rent (subject to the potential legal defenses discussed below).  A review of the pertinent lease terms (including the notice requirements and dates for performance) is necessary, and communication between the parties on these issues is critical.




There are a number of legal doctrines that a party may attempt to invoke to excuse non-performance of a contractual obligation – frustration of purpose, commercial impracticability, and impossibility.  For example, a bar in a jurisdiction that has mandated closures of drinking establishments may invoke the doctrine of frustration of purpose because the basic assumption by landlord and tenant (when entering into the lease) was that the sale of alcohol would be legal.  Impossibility concerns an unforeseen event that prevents a party from performing its contractual obligations such as weather conditions, natural disaster and governmental law making performance illegal. The less common doctrine of commercial impracticability excuses performance if it has become exceptionally and unforeseeably more difficult.  The existence and interpretation of these interrelated doctrines varies by jurisdiction.  The unavailability of financing, price increases and general economic conditions would most likely not provide a basis for any of these doctrines.  Such risks are considered foreseeable, and the contract allocates such risk between the parties as they have agreed. Typically, when and if these other legal doctrines apply, remaining performance under the contract would be excused on both sides and the lease would terminate.




Business interruption insurance typically provides coverage for loss of income due to interruption in operations caused by a casualty event such as a fire or natural disaster.  Since the SARS epidemic, however, insurers have routinely excluded viral or bacterial outbreaks from coverage.  Even so, it is worthwhile to review your commercial insurance policies for coverage that may potentially be available.  For example, “civil authority” provisions may provide coverage for losses resulting from a government mandate prohibiting access to a business location.  To preserve their rights, parties should consider filing an insurance claim in case the insurance companies are later required to provide coverage because COVID-19 is deemed to be “physical damage.”  Preserving such rights must be weighed against the potential increased premium for future coverage based on the filing of the claim.




A “material adverse change” provision is typically included in a purchase and sale agreement for the buyer’s benefit and in loan agreements for the lender’s benefit.  The definition of a material adverse change will be unique to each contract and may even be determined by the party benefitting from the provision. If there is a material adverse change, the buyer may refuse to close on the sale of the property, and the lender may be able to declare a default, accelerate the loan payments, foreclose on any collateral and/or refuse to fund the loan or to make advances under the loan documents.


With regard to purchase agreements, the inability of the buyer to obtain funding will not typically qualify as a material adverse change, and the buyer most likely must perform unless the purchase agreement is expressly contingent on the buyer’s ability to obtain financing.  Property buyers may not be successful in excusing their nonperformance based on a contractual limitation to those material adverse changes affecting the property itself.  If the purchase agreement does not contain a “time of the essence” provision, however, the buyer may have more leeway in delaying the closing.  In practice, many parties are navigating this crisis by pragmatically negotiating concessions, and we are able to provide assistance with drafting any modifications to contracts necessitated by COVID-19.  Even so, many lenders are refusing to fund commercial real estate loans at this time, and, as a result, buyers are simply unable to close.




Given the economic realities of the crisis, many landlords and lenders are providing payment concessions to tenants and borrowers.  This may be in the form or deferral, forbearance, abatement, and/or application of a security deposit.  Such concessions could be made, for example, on a month-by-month basis with deferred repayment over a period at a later date.  Some landlords and tenants may choose to apply tenant security deposits.  The prompt application of a security deposit often benefits a landlord if a tenant ultimately files for bankruptcy.  All parties are wise to carefully document these new terms so that there is clarity and certainty.  Further, in making concessions, landlords must ensure that any notice to and approvals from any lenders are obtained as required by any loan documents.


Another issue is whether the landlord can pass through any costs it has incurred in connection with COVID-19 to its tenants.  For example, a landlord that has ordered a “deep clean” of the premises and has increased maintenance to combat the spread of germs, and has incurred additional expenses as a result, may be able to pass that along to tenants as part of Common Area Maintenance (“CAM”) or Direct Operating Expenses (“DOE”).


We have also been asked whether a landlord or business is obligated to inform its tenants, employees, and customers if they have been made aware that a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 has been on the premises, lives in the building, or has been at the office.  Our typical response is that notice should be given, but the identity of the positive-tested individual should never be disclosed and the landlord or business owner would be wise to inform of their efforts to sanitize and maintain the premises and retard the spread of COVID-19.  We do not foresee liability unless a property owner or business is careless in its maintenance of the premises or disregards the well-being of its employees, customers, or tenants.


Finally, if the situation requires litigation, note that many courts have declared a state of emergency and are continuing or postponing civil cases, including evictions.  Some jurisdictions are postponing foreclosures or evictions altogether.  There, these remedies may simply be unavailable for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.




The specific words used in each contract, the specific facts of each case, the lack of development of this area of law, the potential variability in judicial interpretation, the potential for governmental intervention, and the evolving scope and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted great uncertainty for our real estate owners, landlords, tenants, lenders, borrowers and other clients.  Please contact us if we can provide assistance with any issue you may be facing.  We would welcome the opportunity to navigate these uncharted waters with you.  We hope this update finds you and your family healthy.

Senate Passes Updated Economic Relief Plan (CARES Act) for Individuals and Businesses

March 26, 2020

The U.S. Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  An outline of the key provisions of the CARES Act is available here along with a letter from the President of ICSC.

Here’s What Your Restaurant Business Insurance May (Or May Not) Cover During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Article Originally Posted on

Mar 25, 2020 Joanna Fantozzi |

Lawyers weigh in on whether restaurants will be able to cash in on business interruption insurance during the COVID-19 panic.

As restaurants have shut down across the United States in response to city and statewide coronavirus-related lockdown mandates, business owners are wondering if this disaster is covered under their business insurance protection plans. And while there is likely no pandemic provision (or exception) in any restaurant’s insurance coverage, business owners are hoping for relief in the global health emergency that could result in economic catastrophe.

One restaurant, Oceana Grill in New Orleans, along with its parent company, Cajun Conti, has filed a lawsuit seeking a judgment for its insurer to cover losses incurred while most restaurants are closed down in Louisiana. The restaurant is seeking relief based on the fact that their insurance company covers “direct physical loss” from outside forces including “the event of the businesses closure by order of Civil Authority.”

While Oceana Grill is one of the first restaurants to file a lawsuit against its insurance company in an attempt to reclaim some of the losses incurred during the pandemic, it will likely not be the last.

Below, lawyers answer insurance-related questions that restaurant owners and franchisees might have about their insurance claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What type of insurance could possibly cover loss of business due to COVID-19?

The key type of insurance to be on the lookout for, lawyers say, is business interruption insurance, also known as income interruption insurance. As the name suggests, business interruption insurance compensates your business for interruptions that force you to close your doors temporarily. Usually covered under this claim is fires, weather disasters and other unexpected phenomena. Not usually listed in these insurance plans? Pandemics.

“I assure you that the next iteration of insurance contracts will have worldwide pandemics as an exclusion, but right now many of them don’t,” said Robert Zarco, a business litigation attorney that represents franchisees of more than 300 restaurant companies. “We have developed substantial arguments that reflect that there is a strong viable chance of getting recovery considering the language of these policies.”

What are the requirements of a business interruption claim?

The catch with using business interruption insurance is that most of these types of insurance plans will require physical property loss or damage in order to cash in on the claim. However, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, in many circumstances, even though a restaurant property might not be physically damaged from a fire or flood or other natural disaster, it could still be covered under physical loss.

“I think they can meet this direct physical loss requirement in certain circumstances if they are forced to shut down and have no access to their restaurant,” Jonathan Sokol, a business litigation attorney with Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman and Machtinger law firm said.

“It’s different if they are still operating by serving takeout because then you’re not actually shut down, you’re making less money.”

What should I be looking for in my insurance coverage?

There are certain keywords and phrases to be on the lookout for in the language of your insurance policy. These are the types of insurance coverage that restaurant owners should be asking their insurance brokers and lawyers about.

Crisis Management Coverage covers times of crisis that might include a violent act like a break-in or armed robbery, as well as a restaurant being shut down for food contamination or communicable disease, said Jason Upton, president of the Upton Group, an insurance agency specializing in restaurant and delivery insurance.

Contingent Business Interruption Insurance is a specific type of business interruption insurance that covers indirect loss caused by “the inability of a supplier to perform his/her obligations with the insured (business owner) due to no fault of his own,” Robert Zarco’s law firm said. A government lockdown of an entire city or state could be covered under this type of insurance.

Civil Authority Coverage is when your business is interrupted by federal, state or city government mandate.

Impossibility of Performance and Frustration of Purpose is, just like it sounds, when a business cannot “perform a contractual obligation” through no fault of their own that they could not have foreseen, Zarco said.

What are the odds that my insurance company will cover coronavirus?

Unfortunately, because no one — not even insurance companies – could have predicted the scale of a global pandemic, there is likely no specific language that pertains to COVID-19 in business insurance policies.

Therefore, there is a lot of creative leeway for both insurance companies to claim exclusions, but also for business attorneys to find loopholes in that vague language for restaurants to take advantage.

“I think that 10-20% of policies will cover these restaurants as clearly written,” Zarco said. “But by using the arguments that we’re making? I would say that number could go up to 60-70%. This is going to create huge legal precedence.”

Sokol seemed less optimistic, saying that “insurance companies are going to dig their heels in,” claiming that their insurance policies are not meant to cover global health incidents like this, and that the government should be compensating businesses instead.

What is a virus exclusion?

Although most insurance policies won’t specifically mention pandemics, they might have a virus exclusion policy.

“When we had the SARS epidemic over a decade ago, the insurance industry became concerned with viruses,” Sokol said. “You sometimes see these referred to as pathogenic organism exclusions, which includes any bacteria, yeast, mildew and viruses.”

Even though virus exclusions are common, Sokol said that “depending on the wording” of the contract, there might easily be a way around these exceptions.

Is my restaurant covered under the “Act of God” defense?

It is uncertain whether or not the “Act of God” defense, also known as a “Force Majeure,” would be applicable in this case. An Act of God usually covers unforeseeable natural phenomena like floods, fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, as well as businesses that were affected in the aftermath of 9/11.

“The punitive measures imposed upon us all include the required closure of businesses, imposed travel bans, etc.,” Zarco said.  “Clearly, none of this is within the control, fault, or negligence of the businesses gravely affected, but instead a government imposition of its civil authority for the benefit of the communities at large.”

But the Act of God clause is more complicated than it may seem.

“It is typically defined as a natural disaster and I don’t think a virus would be covered under that,” Sokol said, claiming that there would be exceptions if a restaurant owner contracted the virus and/or did not recover.

Are certain types of restaurants more likely to be covered than others?


Lockdown mandates require restaurant dining rooms to shut down, but do not require restaurants to stop doing takeout or delivery.

“For higher-end restaurants, it’s not practical for them to do takeout,” Sokol said. “In that circumstance, the restaurant or bar could argue physical loss of property because they can’t do takeout.”

What should I be doing to collect an insurance claim?

Both lawyers suggested documenting everything in detail if your restaurant is forced to close temporarily. Do not necessarily rely on the word of your insurance broker, and call a lawyer as soon as possible.

“There’s no reason to sit back because then they’ll lose [whatever claim] they have,” Sokol said.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at

Here’s Where Restaurants and Workers Can Get Relief Funding During Coronavirus


Article originally posted on FSR




While federal stimulus packages are in the works, it could be awhile before governmental bodies agree on an approach, and before restaurants and other businesses see any cash.




As COVID-19 numbers climb, shelter-in-place orders are issued in various states, and businesses shutter, restaurants are grappling with the unimaginable as it happens in real time.


Many brands remain open for carryout and drive thru, and operations haven’t ceased entirely as of yet for foodservice businesses. But officials are warning that it will get worse before it gets better, and slimmed-down off-premises operations aren’t enough to keep restaurants (especially independent concepts) afloat.


On March 18, a letter written by the National Restaurant Association to President Trump estimated that the industry would lose $225 billion and five to seven million people would be left jobless over the next few months. The letter suggested a variety of governmental measures that would assist the restaurant industry in particular, requesting direct/targeted financial relief as one form of aid.


While federal stimulus packages are in the works, it could be awhile before governmental bodies agree on an approach, and before restaurants and other businesses see any cash.


In the absence of aid, some other relief fund options have arisen for restaurants and foodservice workers in need. These are some of those programs, available to restaurants, bars, and restaurant employees all over the U.S. And diners are a crucial part of this equation, too: Placing carryout orders, purchasing gift cards, and donating to the below funds are all ways that consumers can help keep their favorite restaurants above water.


Restaurants and Bars:


Dining Bond Initiative


This collective is working to get funds to restaurants as soon as possible through Dining Bonds, or savings-bond-like vouchers that customers can purchase now and redeem for face value at a future date. People can call restaurants directly or, in some cases, visit the business’ website to buy the bonds.


SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program


Independent restaurants can apply for low-interest working capital loans of up to $2 million from the Small Business Association. These loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills, and the interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses.


Southern Smoke Foundation


Food and beverage assistance nonprofit the Southern Smoke Foundation is raising money to donate to restaurants in crisis. Restaurants may apply for assistance using an entirely anonymous form on the nonprofit’s site.


Help Main Street


Created by the founders of restaurant-ordering platform Lunchbox, Help Main Street is giving diners the chance to provide cash support for local restaurants and other businesses through gift card purchases. All of Help Main Street’s proceeds are donated to help small businesses.


Local for Later


Local for Later is compiling an ongoing list of small businesses that customers can support through online gift card purchases. Businesses are broken down by location on Local for Later’s site, and a form is also available for submitting new eligible businesses.


Support Local


Garnett—the company behind USA TODAY and other media outlets—built its new Support Local platform to help people show support for local businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. The platform connects customers with gift cards available from their favorite businesses, and also allows users to add concepts that aren’t already on the list.




Another Round, Another Rally


Hospitality financial resource nonprofit Another Round, Another Rally is offering $500 relief grants for hospitality workers who lost their jobs or have had their hours slashed due to coronavirus. Anyone in the hospitality industry is eligible and grants are distributed via a variety of cash apps and services.


Lift Your Spirits


The Association is operating a “tip your bartender” campaign that will raise cash for foodservice industry workers whose livelihoods are significantly impacted by COVID-19. Those who wish to participate must make a video of themselves mixing their favorite drink and toasting those affected in foodservice and hospitality; post the video to social media with #LiftYourSpirits; challenge friends to participate as well; and send a “tip” donation to the Association’s Educational Foundation.


Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation


This emergency fund is geared towards individual restaurant workers undergoing financial hardship due to the coronavirus. The fund is also providing zero interest loans for businesses to maintain payroll during closures or reopen once the virus begins to recede.


One Fair Wage 


One Fair Wage’s Emergency Coronavirus Tipped and Service Worker Support Fund serves to give cash assistance to any service industry employee who needs it. The program is open to restaurant workers as well as delivery drivers and others. Workers who are already members of One Fair Wage or who sign up and participate in a confirmation interview will be qualified to receive assistance.


Unite Here Education and Support Fund


Unite Here is amassing funds to cover vital needs for hospitality workers who have been laid-off or made underemployed by covid-19. The group’s funds are used for maintaining family health insurance; food, rent, and utilities; replacing lost wages; and retraining for new jobs during the business downturn.


Go Tip ‘Em


Go Tip ‘Em gives people the chance to help a bartender affected by the coronavirus by donating to a virtual tip jar. All donors need to do is post a photo of a beer, wine, spirit, or cocktail on social media with #gotipem, select a bartender from a list on the Go Tip ‘Em site, and then send any amount to that bartender’s preferred payment service.


Spill the Dish


Spillthedish was designed to assist foodservice workers in locating healthy and supportive restaurant work environments. Now, the service is redirecting its efforts to support restaurant owners, donors, and employees with a database of funding opportunities available to those in the industry. Users can search specific results and even break them down by state.


USBG Bartender Emergency Assistance Program


The U.S. Bartenders Guild is running a covid-19 relief campaign that awards bartenders and their families with grants. The funds are available to even those who are not USBG members and bartenders, bar backs, bar servers, or anyone else engaged in the service of alcoholic beverages can apply.


JOIN #TheGreatAmericanTakeout on 3/24

America’s restaurants need our help!


The coronavirus poses a significant threat to the future of an industry that employs more than 15 million Americans. That’s why a coalition of restaurants is asking for help.


Tuesday 3/24 restaurants across the country are asking for your support by ordering takeout during the #thegreatamericantakeout


Order delivery or takeout from your favorite restaurant and channel your inner ‘foodie’ by sharing your experience/meal with a photo or video across social media with the hashtag #thegreatamericantakeout

‘Do we still have to pay rent?’ Retailers grapple with closed stores and coronavirus

Article originally posted on

March 22, 2020 | Lauren Thomas



  • 1) Dozens of retailers are temporarily closing their stores, marking what is being described as an unprecedented situation.
  • 2) This raises the question: Will these companies still be expected to pay rent?
  • 3) COVID-19 will lead to a lot of negotiating between landlords and their tenants in the coming weeks.


When chatter started building in the U.S. around employers telling their staff to work remotely to try to curb the spread of COVID-19, Untuckit co-founder Aaron Sanandres’ mind was already spinning.

The retailer was founded in 2011 and built its business, initially online, selling comfortably fitting, un-tucked men’s shirts. It now has more than 80 stores, in malls and on bustling urban street corners, across North America. Though its e-commerce operations are strong, stores play a huge role in Untuckit’s business and acquiring new customers.

And so with more cases of the new coronavirus, which still has no cure and is able to spread via human-to-human contact, being reported each day in the U.S., Sanandres and his team were put in an unprecedented situation earlier this month. Do they close their stores? And what would that mean about paying workers? What about rent?

On Tuesday, Untuckit announced that all of its locations will close temporarily through at least the end of this month. The company has said it will pay employees during this time. But Sanandres thinks the closures will drag on for much longer.

Next up is figuring out those monthly rent payments.

“We have started conversations with some of our landlords,” Sanandres told CNBC in a phone interview earlier this week. “We are going to have these conversations with all of our stores.”

Untuckit is not alone in having these conversations. Dozens of retailers, big and small, have said their stores will temporarily go dark through at least the end of the month, likely choosing that initial time frame because they have already paid March rent in full. The list includes everyone from Nike and Apple to start-ups Allbirds and Glossier.

The consequences of still having to pay rent on a location that is not in business could deal a huge blow to some retailers that are already strained for cash. Typically, rent is one of a retailer’s biggest expense items. Couple that with the fact that many retailers’ sales are about to shrink drastically, so long as consumers are holed up at home and stocking up on groceries and household essentials, not discretionary items like shoes and shirts.

The closures raise a huge question. In some of these instances, stores are closing as the shopping mall itself remains open for business, per the landlord’s decision. Retailers are left wondering: Do we still have to pay?

Meantime, mall and shopping center owners certainly do not want to lose a batch of their tenants all at once. That could put their properties at risk.

“I feel like there needs to be more alignment in how this partnership [between tenants and landlords] works,” Sanandres said.

He added that he is hopeful that some landlords — namely the ones in a better position with more cash on hand — will be able to work with retailers on rent abatements, meaning paying less rent, or rent deferrals due to COVID-19.

‘Act of God’

“The biggest concern is how long will this last,” David Marmins, a retail litigation expert who co-leads Arnall Golden Gregory’s retail team, said in an interview.

“15 days? Three months? Of course the landlords’ other concern is that their tenants will go out of business,” he said. “They need their tenants. There will be somebody to take their place eventually. But it is a lot of revenue being lost, every day, that nobody budgeted for.”

Many retailers will have what is known as business interruption insurance, real estate experts said. But, typically, a pandemic caused by a virus is not covered by that. Instead, it is more for fires and natural disasters.

The next step that many retailers are taking is figuring out if force majeure, or “Act of God,” clauses justify tenants’ suspension of performance of their duties under their leases — primarily operating stores and paying rent, Marmins explained.

The answer to this, he said, will depend on the specific contract language, local law and the “causal connection between the pandemic and the particular tenant’s inability to meet its lease obligations.”

Over the years, more force majeure clauses have been adapted to include “epidemic” or “pandemic” scenarios, he said, as tenants have had to work through other deadly virus outbreaks such as SARS and MERS. The more broad-sweeping the clause is, the better chance a tenant has to argue its case, Marmins added.

A lot of this is likely going to play out over the coming weeks on a case-by-case basis, between each tenant and their respective landlord. But with April rent payments coming due in the next few days, retailers do not have much time on their hands to figure things out.

“If landlords turn around and provide rent abatement, a lot of companies can pay employees for longer,” Neighborhood Goods co-founder Matt Alexander said. The company, based in Texas, has three locations in the U.S. It calls itself a department store of the future because it rents space to various brands such as candlemaker Homesick and women’s shoemaker Rothy’s.

Some retailers, including Neighborhood Goods, are working fast to pivot online, pushing deals to shoppers, through marketing emails, on their websites. But roughly 90% of retail sales are still made in brick-and-mortar stores. The shift to digital will not happen overnight. And the demand from consumers to shop online might not even be there right now, regardless.

As of Thursday 4:30 p.m. ET, nearly 36% of square footage devoted to specialty retailers across the U.S. has closed due to COVID-19, according to GlobalData Retail. Over 32% of specialty retail stores are closed, the firm said. It is the grocers, drugstore chains and businesses such as Costco, Walmart and Target that are still open at this time, seemingly unable to keep enough pasta sauce, toilet paper and hand sanitizer on their shelves.

Retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners had been calling for 2020 retail sales in the U.S. to grow 4.1% year over year, if COVID-19 is resolved by April. But the likelihood of that is looking slim, CGP President Craig Johnson said. He said his firm’s estimate for sales growth will be roughly halved, to 2.2%, if the crisis persists into June.

‘It has been panic’
On the flip side, America’s mall and shopping center owners are still trying to figure things out for themselves. Unless a local mandate has asked them to shut, they also must decide whether to remain open for business.

The biggest mall owner in the U.S., Simon Property Group, was the first landlord to announce Wednesday that it is temporarily shutting its entire portfolio of malls and outlet centers domestically though March 29. This includes The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Roosevelt Field Mall in New York and The Galleria in Houston. Private developer Triple Five Group has also shut the Mall of America and its New Jersey megamall that has an indoor ski slope, American Dream.

Real estate owners Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Taubman Centers have also temporarily closed their malls, including Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, and Beverly Center in Los Angeles.

“It has been panic. … I would tell retailers to stay calm,” said Greg Maloney, CEO of commercial real estate services firm JLL’s retail division. Maloney’s job includes working on behalf of landlords to negotiate with tenants regarding their requests.

“They are friends, they are our partners,” he said about retailers that are increasingly anxious. “Retailers might demand free rent, but per the lease do not have the right to do that.”

“We will take a look [at tenants’ requests] and see what we think is right for everyone,” Maloney said. In striking deals with retailers, he added that JLL will be considering a retailer’s sales and how long they might be shut down for.

The hardest part about making these decisions, retail experts say, is not knowing what this situation is going to look like a month from now, or even two days from now.

“This is going to be a massive cash-flow issue,” said Joseph Malfitano, founder of turnaround and restructuring firm Malfitano Partners.


March 20, 2020

(Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Calif.- 18 March 2020) The movie theater industry and its employees ask for Congress and the Administration to urgently consider the following immediate relief measures, which we hope will allow the industry and its 150,000 employees, who live and work in practically every Congressional District, to weather the present COVID-19 pandemic crisis, including:


  • 1) Loan guarantees that ease a liquidity squeeze imposed by fixed costs in the face of non-existent revenues.
  • 2) Tax benefits to assist employers with providing support to employees;
  • 3) Relieving the burden of costs that are ongoing despite closures; and
  • 4) Tax measures that will allow theaters recoup losses when the  industry is back up and running.


The business model of the movie theater industry is uniquely vulnerable in the present crisis.


As we confront this evolving and unprecedented period, we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that America’s movie theater industry and its tens of thousands of employees across the country can remain resilient.


Additionally, the Executive Board of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) today authorized $1 million dollars drawn from the Association’s reserve to aid movie theater employees who are out of work due to movie theater closures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be used as seed funds for an effort to help tide workers over in this crisis in cooperation with our industry partners. Details of the fund will be released shortly.


The National Association of Theatre Owners is the largest exhibition trade organization in the world, representing more than 33,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and more than 32,000 additional screens in 98 countries worldwide.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a second office in North Hollywood, California, NATO represents its members in the heart of the nation’s capital as well as the center of the entertainment industry. From these vantage points, NATO helps exhibition influence federal policy-making and work with movie distributors on all areas of mutual concern, from new technologies to legislation, marketing, and First Amendment issues.


Patrick Corcoran
Vice President & Chief Communications Officer