By Rachel Holt

BOSTON (CBS) — There is a sense of urgency from restaurant workers and owners as they fight to keep their businesses alive. And unfortunately for some, it’s too late.

Jose Duarte recently had to close his restaurant Taranta after a 20-year run in the North End. Duarte, who is also the chef and owner of Tambo 22 in Chelsea, explained, “the bottom line was my rent. I couldn’t afford my rent anymore and I couldn’t get any relief or abatement or any reduction, and I wasn’t going to near debt so I had to make a decision and shut the restaurant.”

Members of Massachusetts Restaurants United (MRU) met at the State House Tuesday to voice their support for the Economic Development Bill, which includes a Distressed Restaurant Fund. If passed, this would provide grants to restaurants, which can be used for things like payroll, insurance, and rent. It would also place limits on third-party delivery fees.

“So many people need help. Restaurants are closing every day. Winter is coming, it’s cold. Patio season is coming to an end, and people are not going to survive. Their restaurants are not going to survive; they need some help,” said Jody Adams, Co-Founder of MRU.

Many restaurant owners are aware the colder weather presents more challenges.

Duarte noted the price of patio heaters “went from $130 to $700 in one week.”

Cecilia Lizotte, the owner of Suya Joint Restaurant in Roxbury, added, “we haven’t even been able to make the sales that we have to to be able to afford those things so it’s been very difficult and then with the prices of everything skyrocketing, it’s almost like it’s truly discouraging.”

According to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, roughly 20% of restaurants in the state have been forced to close permanently due to the pandemic.

“We need dollars. Our revenue is reduced up to 70% and if we can’t get dollars to help us, then we will be closing our doors- oftentimes, forever,” Adams said.

Rachel Holt

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