Restaurant industry fearful of returning to strict COVID-19 restrictions

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Coronavirus-vaccine mandates, which are now being rolled out in an increasing number of cities across the country, have created a divide in the restaurant industry, according to an industry expert. 

Regardless everyone is concerned about the same thing: the impact the mandates will have on businesses and consumers in the state, Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, told FOX Business. 

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"Everyone seems to agree that we need to avoid reverting to harsher restrictions like we had throughout most of the pandemic," Rigie said. "We know we can't go back to reduced occupancy and shut down orders." 

Those restrictions — which significantly hurt restaurant operations nationwide — are the reason the industry was left in peril for well over a year. However, as the delta variant continues to surge across the nation, fueling a new cases and hospitalizations, an increasing number of local governments are considering vaccine mandates for public places. 

A restaurant outside 888 Seventh Avenue, the building that housed the Archegos offices, in the Midtown neighborhood of New York, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.  (Getty Images / Getty Images)

In one aspect, "some workers will feel more comfortable knowing that everyone's vaccinated," Rigie said. "But on the flip side, there are some workers that don't want to be vaccinated that are going to have to do or lose their job." 

In another case, you may have customers who aren't vaccinated or don't want to show proof of a vaccine to dine indoors while others who are concerned about the delta variant, will be more comfortable to dine in with the requirement, he said. 

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Regardless, owners are most fearful of having to reduce operations once again after facing such a financially devastating year. 

"The restaurant industry was the first to get hit the hardest from a financial standpoint and continues to suffer today," Chris Siversen, executive chef and co-owner of Maritime Parc in Jersey City, New Jersey, told FOX Business. 

However, Siversen said the mandate "coupled with news that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will not be replenished would be a significant blow to restaurant owners." 

Despite his concerns about the variant and the "incredible need" to vaccinate consumers nationwide, Siversen argued that this mandate will come at the expense of small businesses and restaurants. 

Meanwhile, the California Restaurant Association argued that "without some sort of vaccine or COVID-testing requirement, there is consideration" for going back to restrictions such as indoor capacity limits, restaurant curfews, limits on the hours or times when someone can sell alcohol or even closing indoor dining altogether. 

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"You know, it's a split issue, it's unfortunate, but like I said, the one thing we know is… we can't revert back to the harsh restrictions that we saw," Rigie said.  

In regards to New York, Rigie noted that the city can't recover until restaurants do. 

"Hopefully the vaccine requirement will have the intended result, which is more people get vaccinated" and then the requirement won't have to be in effect for too long, he added. 

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