LRA Acadiana Chapter Members,
It appears we are turning a corner, and business is beginning to improve in our industry. On the federal and state levels, advocacy through the National and Louisiana Restaurant Associations, has resulted in some big wins for restaurants. Every action alert you answered in the last year helped secure access to $70B loans for restaurants; save restaurants $15.7B with PPP deductibility from federal taxes; expanded the Employee Retention Tax Credit; and just days ago, the passage of the America Rescue Plan with a $28.6B Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant program. As this program is developed with the Small Business Administration (SBA), be sure to stay tuned to LRA emails for information on how to apply.
Almost to the day one year ago, our restaurants were shuttered with the exception of takeout, delivery and drive-through/curbside. We had to adapt and adopt a new business model to survive, and we’ve seen a large shift from dine-in customers to predominately delivery. As we continue to recover, restrictions are lifted and more Acadianans are vaccinated, I believe we will see a revival in our dine-in business.
You may be thinking, what’s next? We, as operators, can have the greatest impact by engaging our mayors and city/parish councils at the local level. They dine out in our restaurants, and when they do, we are provided the opportunity to advocate for our business. Most importantly, we can educate them on the regulatory nature of our industry, how many people we employ, how much we pay in sales taxes and how we support our communities.
A few weeks ago, I was surprised to read an article that mentioned Lafayette City and Parish Councils jointly passed an ordinance requiring possession of a $140 annual local permit to deliver alcoholic beverages with food orders - also required of third-party-delivery companies . Where to-go alcohol is concerned, the rise of restaurants embracing delivery, whether using employees of its own or third-party-delivery, leaves the state and local municipalities attempting to "regulate" this new market. During lockdown, our local municipalities allowed for the delivery of beer, wine or sparkling wine with food orders.
As fate would have it, my councilwoman had lunch in my restaurant, and I was able to ask her whether it was the best time to add the burden of additional fees when we're working so hard simply to keep our doors open. She admitted she was unaware of the permit fee, and during our 5-minute conversation, she added me to her distribution list to receive future City Council meeting agendas and agreed to work with the industry to have the fee waived for the first year - allowing restaurants to conserve funds towards their recovery.
A few months ago, an LRA member heard rumblings of an upcoming ordinance to be heard by the East Baton Rouge Parish Council and called the LRA with the details. During the pandemic, the Council passed an ordinance waiving its local alcohol ordinances in globo. Thanks to the heads up from an LRA member, when the Council moved to “reinstate” the ordinances, the LRA Advocacy Team sent an Action Alert and engaged with the Mayor, who agreed to support continuing to allow for the sale of “to go” alcohol.
I invite you to reach out to your councilmember and introduce yourself. (Find Your Councilmember here). Ask them to keep you in mind when issues that may impact your restaurant come across their desks and to be included on their distribution lists. With 303 total municipalities in Louisiana, this is where each one of us has the ability to aid the LRA Advocacy Team in their work to protect us at the local level.
Acadiana Chapter President