Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Hosting Roundtables On Restaurant COVID-19 Impacts
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture plans to host a series of roundtable discussions next month across the state to hear from restaurant owners and chefs about challenges they’ve faced during the coronavirus pandemic, along with thanking restaurants that have relied on local food.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles on Monday said he believes the restaurant industry has most likely been hit the worst by the pandemic out of all sectors, citing shifting COVID-19 restrictions that “contributed to thousands of restaurants shutting down permanently across America.” The National Restaurant Association estimates more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments either temporarily or permanently closed in 2020 across the country.
Along with hearing about pandemic struggles, he said the discussions will be an opportunity to share the ways the food chain supply has been strengthened since the pandemic.
“We’re focused on solutions and letting them know that they have a strong voice in Frankfort within my office,” Quarles said. “We’re going to continue to fight for fairness when it comes to small businesses staying open compared to larger businesses.”
The roundtable discussions will plan to start in mid-April with COVID-19 precautions in place, visiting Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and London, Kentucky.
Restaurant and bar capacity has remained at 60% with social distancing since early March. A group of pubs and restaurants sued Governor Andy Beshear over his emergency orders and to prevent new ones from being implemented, currently still being considered in Scott Circuit Court.
Kentucky Restaurant Association President Stacy Roof said the restaurants involved in the lawsuit don’t represent the position of the association, and that opinions on if and how much capacity should be increased vary from each restaurant. She said the discussions could be an opportunity to highlight local food options for restaurants throughout the state.
“I love working with them and trying to get our restaurants and farmers together and utilizing and highlighting all the great products Kentucky produces,” she said.