The restaurant and bar community formed the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) to save the independent restaurants and bars and the 11 million people we employ — and the 5 million workers up and down the food supply and chain — who are affected by COVID-19. The IRC was founded on the simple belief that our small businesses have the power to affect legislative change if we unite our voices.
Our mission is to provide a strong, unified voice on legislative, regulatory, and policy issues that affect the restaurant industry; and provide advocacy, advice, networking and information to members.
About the IRC
The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
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How a Call Created a Law
In just under a year, a call between a handful of independent restaurant and bar operators grew into a nationwide movement to #SaveRestaurants. The IRC proposed a plan called the RESTAURANTS Act and Washington listened, including a $28.6 billion grant program for independent restaurants and bars in the American Rescue Plan. Here’s how it happened:
A group of 18 people from the restaurant and bar community convened for a call to determine a course of action on COVID-19 relief in Congress.
The Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline to restaurants and bars needing immediate support, but ultimately was a one-size-fits-all program that did not fit restaurants and bars’ unique business models, requiring these businesses to take on debt when bills were already piling up.
Over 9,000 restaurant and bar community members called on Congress to fix the CARES Act, make changes to PPP, and create a restaurant relief fund.
April 20: 50,000 email subscribers
In one month, a small Zoom call grew into a grassroots movement.
Members of the independent restaurant and bar community joined the IRC for a Zoom town hall to learn how the grant program would help them.
In a letter signed by over 65,000 people, the IRC detailed a $120 billion relief fund designed to save the industry.
BLS employment report indicated that nearly 6 million restaurant and bar workers, nearly half the industry, lost their jobs in the first six weeks of the pandemic.
Just two months after forming, IRC members met with President Trump and Vice President Pence and presented their plan for the RESTAURANTS Act.
Influenced by the IRC, changes to PPP allowed restaurants and bars to use the funds over a 24 week period, so these businesses could keep their doors open in the short term.
Report showed that a restaurant relief fund would generate $271 billion and reduce unemployment by 2.4%.
The IRC joined Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) as they introduced the $120 billion relief fund in Congress.
The IRC mobilized the grassroots coalition to fight for the industry’s survival. Over 215 suppliers and trade groups joined restaurants and bars, urging Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act.
American Express, Coca-Cola, Delta, Hyatt, Resy, Sysco, and US Foods asked Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act.
New York CIty chef, and co-founder of the IRC, Amanda Cohen testified in front of the House Committee on Small Business on the state of the industry and the need for the RESTAURANTS Act.
Restaurant and bar community mobilized a grassroots movement to lobby for industry relief -- adding 33 cosponsors in the past week.
Schumer instantly became one of the Independent Restaurant Coalition’s most prominent champions in Congress.
Speaker’s support came after an effort from the San Francisco restaurant and bar community to urge support for the legislation.
About the bill passage, the IRC said: “We are grateful for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick who led the effort to pass a restaurant revitalization fund in the House. Sens. Roger Wicker and Kyrsten Sinema have also fought tirelessly on behalf of our industry and built strong bipartisan support for direct restaurant relief in the Senate.”
RESTAURANTS Act gained 50th cosponsor in the Senate.
Over 22,000 members of the industry urged Congress to include the RESTAURANTS Act as part of COVID-19 deal.
This short term solution allowed the restaurants and bars to keep their lights on, but did little to support the community long term.
PPP expansion was not enough to keep these workers employed. It was clear that an industry-specific relief fund was needed.
President-elect Biden offered that he “(wants) to work with Congress to make sure that restaurants and other businesses that have suffered disproportionately have sufficient support to bridge to the recovery."
Amendment introduced by Senators Wicker and Sinema received overwhelming support.
Members of the neighborhood restaurant and bar community featured in the ad.
300 people from the independent restaurant and bar community met with White House to discuss the restaurant grant program. During the meeting, Congressman, Senior Advisor to the President, and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond said, “The Independent Restaurant Coalition has become a powerful voice for America’s restaurant and bar community and we are thrilled to work with them to ensure this industry survives the pandemic.”
Said Leader Schumer, “Without the IRC… I don’t know if it would have gotten done at all.”
A small phone call became a nationwide movement. Washington heard the voice of the neighborhood restaurant and bar community. America’s restaurants and bars now have a chance at survival.