GREG MORRIS: Government overreach is harming restaurants

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“Restaurant Impossible” is a successful TV series on the Food Network where world-class chef Robert Irvine is on a mission to save failing restaurants from themselves by showing owners a better way, retraining staff and renovating the premises.

I, too, have been on a mission to try to help restaurants stay in business—downtown and around the region—by eating on the premises, inside or out, and ordering carryout or delivery the past five months.

Rather than saving restaurants from themselves like chef Irvine, I’m trying to help save them from the politicians who are going to put even more of them out of business with endless restrictions and regulations. Only the absolute strongest will survive under these conditions.

Earlier this week, I had another great business lunch at one of my favorite downtown restaurants. As usual, the food and service were great. As I sat at my table in the bar, but of course not at the bar, which is another of those ridiculous restrictions, I looked around and saw only about a dozen customers at a place that packs them in day after day under normal conditions. I was angry, because it doesn’t have to be this way.

I’ve had some great food during the pandemic but also some average to below-average experiences. For the average, I try to extend the umbrella of grace. I understand how difficult it is to put your best foot forward under an avalanche of rules, regulations and restrictions.

If I get a meal that doesn’t meet expectations or part of my order is missing, I consider it a donation to the cause to keep folks going for another week. Because, who knows if some of these places can survive another week without a miracle?

I know many readers are still not comfortable eating outside their houses. Please understand this column is not an attempt to pressure anyone to do something you don’t feel safe doing. We all have to make our own decisions. I’m not afraid to patronize restaurants that I trust to take reasonable precautions in the same way I take reasonable precautions.

I’ve been saying of late to whoever will listen that, if we continue to leave the job of returning to life as we once knew it up to the politicians, they will most likely put every restaurant and small business out of business before we can move forward. I know that’s not their intent. But that is the result. Where is the balance of safety versus destroying the economy and half or more of all jobs?

There seem to be no boundaries when it comes to shutting down commerce. Every time I get optimistic about making progress to get Indianapolis or Carmel or Greenwood or Avon or Greenfield or every other city, town and county in the region to the goal line and back open for business, the goal posts get moved down the road again for “another two weeks” or “indefinitely.”

As events, meetings and conventions continue to cancel, and many workers still aren’t coming back to their offices, the entire region suffers, especially downtown.

I submit that history will write that the government reaction to this pandemic needlessly created one of the most destructive financial results in history. Whether I’m right or wrong about this supposition—if you are ready, willing and able—please support restaurants and businesses any way you can. A neighbor’s livelihood might depend on it. Thank you for reading.•

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Morris is publisher of IBJ. To comment, email gmorris@ibj.com.

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15 thoughts on “GREG MORRIS: Government overreach is harming restaurants

  1. Your restaurants would be open if their customers would wear a mask while not eating or drinking. European countries have proven this. Also, the reason restaurants are targeted is because that’s where cases are traced too. Indiana doesn’t appear to publish specific data, but here in California I believe upwards of 75% of infections were traced back to restaurants and bars. That’s why they are now outdoor only.

  2. You lost me in the first paragraph when you called Robert Irvine “World Class”. He lied about his military career & should have been fired.

    It’s obvious you eat to live vs live to eat. Big difference. And you putting up with bad service isn’t keeping them open another week either. What an ego.

    Who is this guy again?

  3. Many politicians (especially our twitter in chief) actually reacted too late to Covid 19, costing tens of thousands of lives. If we had done a better job earlier, the restaurants might be in better financial health today.

    1. Totally agree with you David. Had there been a consistent and scientifically driven response from the top, “normal” would’ve already happened.

  4. Thank you for writing this Greg. It is too bad we cannot pull ourselves out of the political quagmire that has been created in our country prior to, and with this situation, as that prolongs the painful process of progressing beyond it. To take a broad paint brush and stroke this as a federal government failing, or to finger point and call names and blame others for “not wearing a mask”, further delays what we all want, which is fact-based problem solving and progress toward getting back to a productive society. One that supports the small businesses and restaurants you are talking about, Greg. As a small business owner, I agree with your premise, “I submit that history will write that the government reaction to this pandemic needlessly created one of the most destructive financial results in history.” The average, everyday citizen did not create this challenge, and from what I have experienced, and by the commentary I have read up to this point, we are not doing much to solve it, either. Perhaps the finger pointing, name calling and emotional reactions should take a back seat to mature, objective study and research. If the population of this “free” country we live in took a bit more responsibility and held local government responsible (that is who is making decisions for the over reach Greg is pointing out, not federal government), did not blindly accept their largely fear-driven decrees(fear of losing elections, not lives), we may be much closer to a community capable of keeping our neighbor’s businesses thriving, and our handling of this virus, reasonably manageable. Make no mistake this overreach is not merely affecting restaurants and small business, it is impacting, negatively, many other aspects of our communities and the emotional well being of countless Hoosiers. In support of Greg’s point, this is causing much more damage. much more severe damage, than anyone in local government is tracking. Please folks do not forget these decision makers who are “moving the goal posts” are paid by us, they work for us, at our discretion, not the other way around.

  5. Early in this I posted on social media that we needed to support the local restaurants and establishments we love if we want to keep them. Tip better than normal, patronize them well, but also get in and out so the precious “table turn” could help them survive and thrive. Unfortunately fear has gripped many. Yes, COVID IS real. Many have gotten sick, several have died, but the majority have recovered (or are quarantining to recover). Folks, we’ve got this!

    1. “Several have Died” Really, just several? Long term after affects are real and serious, and it now appears that immunity after the virus is not completely there, increased numbers of children are becoming infected, schools are closing again. I know of people that have died and been hospitalized. Unfortunate fear?? This isn’t something to be taken lightly and if we don’t use extreme caution it will close us down even further.

  6. I support restaurants though carry out and outside dining. I and others are not yet comfortable with a cozy indoor dining. And, I dod applaud the government in taking steps to limit the impact and respectfully opine that had measures been adopted on a national level much earlier, the extensive impacts of the pandemic could have been significantly decreased. That, coupled with other site specific measures, be they by locality or county or other subarea, would perhaps have been better alternatives to allow restaurants and other businesses to minimize impact. Indianapolis is not unique in downtown woes as telecommuting impacts affect many cities. However, a longer term concern or goal is to attract trips to and activity in downtown past-pandemic. All must move ahead; people are opting with their feet in light of this airborne virus for which some are not ready and wiling to take the risk – not yet. One indeed misses that bar seat and favorite beverage but must now tow the line and accept the table or carry out. I too suggest others do so as well.

  7. Well, things started to open up and you saw what happened, stupidity happened, so it will have to stay this way for a while if you want to stay safe and well.

  8. Greg, if you don’t leave it up to the politicians to help keep us alive you know what happens. You saw what happened when things started to open up, and see what happens at colleges and universities and with people that just want to party.

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