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We are working every day to get restaurants relief to survive this crisis, but we are more powerful if we are united and loud. Many restaurateurs and community members have asked how they can help. To this end we have put together a list of action items including messages and guidelines you can use to reach out to your elected officials and the media to help save restaurants. This is the most productive route we can take to see change. Our industry has their attention. Let’s make sure we keep it.

As a helpful reference point, read an overview of what the Colorado Restaurant Association has been doing to support and fight for our industry through the COVID-19 pandemic here. 

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Guidelines for Reaching Out to Your Elected Officials
Reach Out to Your Federal Officials
Reach Out to Your State Officials
Reach Out to Your Local Officials 
Guidelines for the Media
Get the Word Out on Social Media

Guidelines for Reach Out to Your Elected Officials

We are working with every level of government to get you more relief, but it is essential that you also reach out to your elected officials and tell them your stories.

  • Stories amplify our efforts. Reach out often: Continued communication provides an opportunity to build a relationship with them. Establishing a relationship with your City Councilmembers, State Senators, or any elected officials now will increase the likelihood that they will be there when you need them in the future.
  • Your officials want to hear from you: Hearing your perspective and representing their district is what they are elected to do; they want to hear from you.      

How to find your elected officials:

  • If you don’t know who your elected officials are or how to contact them, click here and scroll down to “Find Officials”.
  • You can input your home or business address and it will populate all of your federal, state, and in some cases your local elected officials with contact information.
  • Start by telling them who you are and what business you have.
  • Then, walk themthroughyourCOVID-19 story. We encourage you to tell them what is happening to your business, your employees, and the community. Be specific:       
    • How many employees have you had to lay off or furlough?
    • What is your revenue right now compared to this time in 2019?
    • How long have you been serving and operating within your community?
  • Be respectful in your letter or phone call, but also be direct and honest.
  • Clearly outline what you are asking of them, and try to stick to the topic and avoid following tangents.
  • Ask for their support of your ask, and tell them WHY this will help you.
  • Some legislators may immediately agree with your ask, some may immediately disagree or decline to act, and some may not commit either way.
  • Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, you should thank them for their time and consideration.
  • Share your phone number and email address and ask them to follow up with you if they have any questions or if they want to discuss other ideas.
  • Make yourself available! You are a restaurant industry subject matter expert – offer your help. These continued conversations and contact will pay off in the future.

When reaching out to your federal elected officials (i.e. U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators), here are a few things you can ask for:

  • Urge them to pass a relief package for restaurants. We have almost reached a year of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and much more relief is needed. Ask them to act now, restaurants cannot wait any longer.
  • Urge them to pass the Senate version of the Restaurants Act. Restaurants, more than any other industry, have been decimated by COVID-19. There is no industry more deserving of aid than restaurants.
  • Remind them that the hardships this industry is experiencing will not dissipate with the start of vaccine distribution. The industry is going to need even more support as it tries to recover from the brutal economic results of this pandemic.

 Contact your federal officials here.

When reaching out to the Governor and members of the Colorado House and Senate, here are a few things you can ask for:

  • Work with the industry to find a safe way for restaurant doors to be open. Restaurants will permanently close without indoor dining. There is no publicly available data showing restaurants are a large part of the spread of COVID-19. State elected officials need to work with the industry to come up with solutions instead of keeping them in the dark.
  • Support legislation that allows a county or municipality who decides to raise their local minimum wage to set a tip offset that is higher than the state’s. Right now, if a city decides to increase their own minimum wage, they can only have a $3.02 tip offset. This hurts the people you are trying to help by limiting the money restaurants in that area have to raise the wage of non-tipped employees, who in most cases take home far less than their tipped counterparts. This needs to be fixed in law at the Colorado legislature.
  • Support legislation that would provide restaurants new and timely methods of earning revenue. For example, support making alcohol for takeout and delivery from a restaurant permanent. This has been a crucial revenue source for many restaurants across the state of Colorado during the COVID-19 restrictions. Support restaurants’ ability to sell meal kits for customers to prepare at home.
  • Do whatever they can to support the restaurant industry. Ask them to actively consider the implications each bill they review could have on this industry while it is remarkably fragile.

 Contact your state officials here.

When reaching out to your City/Town Councilmembers and County Commissioners, here are a few things you can ask for:

  • If they haven’t already, find a way to implement the 5 Star State Certification Program in the County. Restaurants have been doing their part during this crisis and feel like they are taking the brunt of the punishment. This program will reward businesses who go above and beyond by allowing them to be open at a higher capacity.
  • Consider putting in temporary caps on third-party delivery fees during the COVID-19 restaurant restrictions. Many restaurants in the state are relying on delivery and takeout as their primary source of revenue, but some of the fees charged by some companies make it nearly impossible for a restaurant to make a profit.
  • Consider allowing restaurants to keep all or a portion of their local sales tax for a period of time. The state passed legislation allowing restaurants to keep up to $2,000 a month of the state sales tax they collected for November and December of 2020 and January and February of 2021. This could help a restaurant pay their staff, heat their patios, purchase touchless payment systems, and more. Even if retaining all of it is not possible, allow restaurants to keep a portion.
  • Continue to utilize CARES Act dollars or other local funds toward restaurant support and success through grant and loan programs. Even local micro-grants have the potential to offer tremendous support to restaurants.
  • Lift or suspend any regulations making it more difficult for restaurants to expand their patios, set up curbside delivery areas, create outdoor dining structures, or any other regulation that would hinder a restaurant’s ability to operate during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To contact your local officials, find their contact information here.

If you would like to speak with someone from the CRA about any of these issues or about how to build a relationship with your elected officials, please know that you can reach out to us. Email Nick Hoover at nhoover@corestaurant.org or Mollie Steinemann at msteinemann@coretaurant.org

 

GUIDELINES FOR THE MEDIA

We encourage you to reach out to the media and make your stories heard. You each have a unique experience, and you can help the public understand how difficult things are right now. When speaking with the media, it is critical that our industry is united in our ask for help.

Here are a few tactics to help you convey your message effectively:

  • Stick to specific messages that are drawn from your own experience. Reporters are currently looking for details that show the economic devastation of the pandemic, including jobs lost, lost revenue, and threat of closure. These can be key points of your story.
    • For example: With indoor dining rooms closed, 24% of Colorado restaurants say they could close permanently within a month. We know we can only operate for a month or two more without additional help, and then we will have to consider closing.
    • For example: Before the introduction of Level Red, our industry had already lost over 60,000 jobs. After it was introduced, 6,000 more service industry workers filed for unemployment in one week, accounting for 43.5% of all claims. We have had to lay off all of our employees except for managers since going into Level Red. That has been devastating.
  • To enhance your impact, focus on a call to action: what do you need?
    • For example: Restaurants need cash. The federal relief passed by Congress is a necessary down-payment, but is not nearly enough to carry our business through recovery. We need more assistance in 2021.
    • For example: Restaurants need capacity. Involve restaurants in solutions that allow them to operate safely.

If you have an upcoming interview that you would like help preparing for, please know that you can always reach out to us. We can provide you with industry data and help you hone your message. Email Laura Shunk at lshunk@corestaurant.org or Erin Dewey at edewey@corestaurant.org with any questions.

 

HELP US GET THE WORD OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

We are consistently sharing pertinent updates and ways that people can assist our industry!

  • Please ensure you follow us on all of our social media platforms.
  • We encourage you to share these posts on your own social channels to reach and engage your own audiences.
  • We have also put together an online database of ways that the public can support restaurants through this difficult time. Please share dineouttohelpout.com.

 

We understand that you feel like your back is against the wall. But defying state and local public health orders and staying open indoors is not the answer. These restrictions are being enforced across the state with permanent repercussions.

Violating public health orders will put you at risk for:

  • Hefty fines and jail time: up to a $999 fine and 1 year in jail.
  • Loss of your liquor and retail food licenses. The State Liquor Enforcement Division (LED) and the State Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) can pull your liquor license and retail food license – effectively shutting your business down -- for at least 30 days and potentially for good. (We know that local officials in parts of the state have publicly stated that they will not enforce these orders, but the state officials have the authority to enforce the regulations within those local jurisdictions, and we have already seen that they are taking steps to do so. CDPHE has already issued a letter stating its intent to enforce public health orders.)
  • Ineligibility for state and local financial assistance programs. The direct grant programs from the State Legislature that were recently signed into law, clearly state that those who violate health orders will NOT qualify for this assistance. We know that your two greatest needs are cash and capacity, and the state stimulus will help alleviate financial concerns while we wait for meaningful relief to come from the federal government.
  • Ineligibility for the 5 Star State Certification Framework that will allow for increased indoor capacity. Under this new framework, restaurants that can demonstrate certain health and safety efforts could be certified by their county public health agency to increase their capacity beyond the current county level. Again, if you are operating out of compliance with public health orders, you will not be eligible for the increased capacity allowances under this framework.

 

Sincerely know that the Colorado Restaurant Association is here for you. If you have ideas, we want to hear them. If you need help, we want to be there. Please continue to reach out to us if there is anything that you need. Email info@corestaurant.org with any questions or concerns and your message will be delivered to the person that can best help you. We know that our industry is in a desperate position. We need to be united, we need to be loud, we need to be helped.


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