Could The Omicron Variant Lead To More Restaurant Closures?

As 2021 comes to a close, it looks like diners everywhere may need to brace for a new round of COVID-19 restrictions. According to CNN, the Omicron variant has now forced many restaurants and bars across the U.K. to close, as staff become infected, with the rippling and sudden shutdown affecting morale and casting a somber light on the holidays abroad. And it appears that the U.S. should expect a similar fate, as restaurants across America have now begun to take similar actions due to the spread.

The Washington Post reports that the new wave of infections have caused eateries across the country to temporarily shutter as staff test positive for COVID-19. Some of these closures are also precautionary measures, with restaurants across Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, and New York particularly hit hard. New York City faces an incredibly tough time this holiday season, as restaurants that have closed due to viral outbreaks have reached into the double digits. These widespread preventative closures have prompted the National Restaurant Association and the Independent Restaurant Coalition to lobby Congress in order to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide relief grant money in order to keep businesses afloat this winter as changes continue to happen in what feels like the blink of an eye. In the past year, $28.6 billion has been distributed to 100,000 applicants, but reserves are now depleted, per ABC News, and that could be a big problem if mass shutdowns are to come.

It continues to be a tough time for restaurants in America

According to The Wall Street Journal, New York restaurateurs quickly saw worsening COVID conditions accelerate in a matter of days, and some businesses had to quickly act to shut down due to fears of spreading the infection further. Even if some restaurants didn't shut down due to the virus, the amount of workers calling out sick has hampered service and forced closures due to staffing issues. ABC News reported a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association that polled operators across the U.S., and noted that 77% of the 3,000 participants said "they didn't have enough workers to meet demand."

Even if you live in an area that hasn't felt the full brunt of Omicron yet, you might still face some issues dining out this holiday season. According to Today, the CDC hasn't issued particular measures regarding Omicron and dining in just yet, and businesses haven't officially had to restrict diners in the face of this latest variant as was the case early on in the pandemic. But, even though restaurants haven't necessarily had to change their business policies, the changes in staff and precautionary measures have also affected how indoor dining functions, such as some restaurants requiring proof of vaccination and choosing to put capacities on parties, per ABC. Some restaurant owners worry that local dining policies may have to change if Omicron cases continue to disrupt the dining industry, but for now, expect to see some restaurant closures across the country as it ramps up.