Britain Northern Ireland Virus Outbreak

It's a grim reality. Some of our favorite Delaware restaurants may not make it out of the coronavirus pandemic still standing. 

"When this all washes out in the end, there's going to be a lot of our favorite, small local restaurants that just won't come back," said Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association.

Leishman told WDEL that she and her team worked around the clock, all weekend, trying to convince the governor not to shut down restaurants. But his amended State of Emergency to include the closure of restaurants, except for carry-out and delivery, was issued just after 2:30 p.m. on Monday, moments before the state would announce its eighth case of coronavirus and the first case not affiliated with the University of Delaware.  

The regulations, which also ban large gatherings over 50 people, go into effect at 8 p.m. Monday, March 16, 2020.

"I can't even tell you half of the impacts. You're already seeing restaurant groups choosing to close because carryout cannot sustain most restaurants to pay their staff," she said. 

"You're going to see mass unemployment; we're very concerned for the hourly workforce. We were all trying to weigh the balance of health and moving too quickly as other states are doing, and the health of our business community, right? Because we're the largest small business employer, so it's going to hit the state economically very hard and much harder than many states."

But Leishman said her requests fell on deaf ears. Now, she's pleading that the governor's closure doesn't last for eight weeks. New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control suggests events with 10 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks.

"Please do not make this eight weeks; please look at it, maybe after two weeks, to look at the bell of whether we're containing this virus. I mean that's devastating, right, taking us through Easter and into Mother's Day. Our members have had to cancel events, catering, all their business, and we really feel that it fell on deaf ears at the end, we really did. We feel somewhat betrayed by the state. I think they moved quickly, and without a full understanding of what it's going to do to an industry that's already...works on such slim margins. I think that's the scariest part. Everybody's pretty fearful right now, mostly, for their employees."

When answering a question about the eat-in ban during a Town Hall late Monday, Carney said while it was a tough decision, he had a message for those who have the ability to still support the restaurant community.

"I would encourage all Delawareans to go to your favorite restaurant and order some takeout food, so that they can get some income during this period of time. It's something we all need to pull ourselves together around."

Leishman said she would have preferred restaurants take common sense, social distancing steps like limiting bar service and patrons sitting around a bar. Delaware joins Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland in restricting dine-in service at restaurants, bars, and taverns.

"In the end, I think what really happened was that we saw our neighboring states go down this road, and I think the governor acted a lot with his governors...I think the train had left the station," she said.

Leishman said they have calls with the state House and Senate leadership in the coming days for disaster economic recovery plans for restaurants and their employees.

"We are still sort of reeling from this fallout," she said. "We're devastated, and we're going to get through it the best we can."