By Valeria Fridegotto, Clare Tendian and Bartosz S. Lobaza
George Katsambas had lost his job a couple of months back along with everyone he worked with at the hotel.
“Basically, it kind of shut down the business,” he said. “I mean, you know, everybody went home, basically, the hotels, you know, nobody was traveling. So those are, you know, occupancy from like, 90%, you know, 97% occupancy that we would have on a weekend or during the week, went down to like, you know, 10%.”
“So you talk about like a hotel, I was, say, for example, 400 rooms, all of a sudden, you had maybe like, you know, less than 10 rooms. So basically in the bar, the restaurant, everything shut down.”
According to the Datassential, as of Nov. 17, there have been 79,438 permanent shutdowns of food establishments out of 778,807 across the entirety of the United States. In the city of Chicago alone, 18.8% of restaurants have had to shut their doors for good since the onset of COVID-19.
“I was kind of lucky because I had a regular job too, and a lot of people I worked with impacted them,” Katsambas said.
It is undeniable that such instances of a sudden loss of employment that happened correspondingly to the inception of this pandemic have taken place across the globe. Katsambas’ calamity that had struck him and his workmates that transpired in Chicago was only one of many.
As of Aug. 5, the rate of restaurant closures across all Chicagoland counties such as Cook, Lake, Kane, etc. is 12.3%, not including the metropolis of Chicago. Contributing to the rough 19% of Chicago restaurants closing.
While Illinoisis struggling with the loss of small businesses and their unfruitful recoveries, the same can be said for small businesses in other locations. Restaurants businesses were once lively adventures, now they are a financial terror.
According to Visual Capitalist, US data suggests that nearly a quarter of all small businesses remain closed. In Illinois, -27% of small businesses are on the correct pathway of successful recovery, as well as pretty much anywhere in the entire country. Meaning, less and less small businesses are actually coming back to proper functionality. The establishments located in the city of Greektown are surely taken into the computation.
While the very first instance of permanent closure of a restaurant business did not occur during the ravages of COVID-19, the shutdown of the Parthenon restaurant in 2016 after 48 years in business preached the upcoming closures.
For that matter, Santorini, a restaurant establishment that served as a Greektown classic for locals, had permanently shut its doors after 31 years of service on Mar. 24, 2021. Santorini was facing the uncertainty of the future as maintenance fees have been rapidly increasing. It no longer needs to worry about financial issues.
The fall of such giants has shaken the very pillars of this neighborhood’s cultural identity.
Such a domino effect had not only shifted the balance of economic stability amongst the restaurants with notable popularity but lesser ones too. Pegasus Restaurant and Taverna, which served as a relaxation station for the citizens of Greektown had also shared the same fate as previously mentioned giants.
Dimitrious Koronis, an attorney with a public transit agency, said that because of higher maintenance, restaurants had to, at some point, increase their prices to keep their employees afloat. But for the most part, the desperately needed customers were nowhere to be found.
“We have the responsibility, all the staff that we have, you know, to try to keep them paid,” he said. “And it’s hard to do if the doors are open. And then you also have people leaving the business altogether. Because, you know, there are better higher-paying jobs with less risk that had become available. And unfortunately, you know, when we raise prices to keep, you know, paying our help, higher wages, people won’t come to the restaurants.”
Additionally, to aid the already struggling business in staying afloat and avoid the possibility of bankruptcy, the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, part of the American Rescue Plan stimulus bill, was signed into law.
Despite their best efforts and intentions, however, the fund, which has been signed into law in March of 2021, had already run out by Jun. 30, 2021.
The money that was supposed to preserve the continuous service of restaurants, bakeries, food trucks, food stands, food carts, snack bars, caterers, salons, inns, taverns, bars, brewpubs, taprooms, wine tasting spots, distilleries, and other venues had run out in just 1 month.
And lack of additional funding is not the only concern plaguing the already struggling owners of small businesses. According to the Q3 2021 CNBC’s Momentive Small Business Survey, a survey with the motive of through measurement of the health of the US economy half of the small business owners had reported that it’s gotten more difficult to find people willing to work compared to a year ago.
Lack of proper labor, rising costs of worker wages, and an increase of utility bills. On-growing problems that have yet to multiply and cause even more harm.
Due to the pandemic, the livelihood of Greektown among the restaurant businesses has gone down significantly. Now that the pandemic has gotten a bit better, it is time to return to our favorite Greek restaurants that reopened and support them for all the hard work they have done.
“Honestly, I think COVID has really killed a Greektown,” Koronis said.