Mar 22, 2021

Supporting Restaurants Through a Difficult Year

Wisconsin Restaurant Association logoIt’s hard to believe that a year ago, restaurants were forced to close their dining rooms to “flatten the curve.” We never anticipated two weeks would turn into two months of closed inside dining, much less strict limitations and mandates for more than a year!

Knowing this year has been incredibly challenging to restaurant operators of all sizes, the team at the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been working hard at the local, state and federal levels to provide critical resources, solutions and tools to support restaurants during this unprecedented time. Below are some of the top accomplishments the team has achieved to date. And while we’ve had many significant wins, our work still continues as we help restaurants recover and return to normal!

Key Accomplishments

$28.6 Billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is based on the Senate version of the RESTAURANTS Act and the original plan posed by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association in March, 2020. This fund will help the hardest hit small and medium-sized restaurants kick-start their recovery. The WRA is committed to helping all eligible restaurant owners prepare to successfully apply for RRF grants.

$72+ Billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans
At a time when restaurants were most in need of capital, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association partnered with the National Restaurant Association to secure expanded access to forgivable loans on two occasions and to refine the program to meet the specific needs of restaurants.

PPP Deductibility That Saved Restaurants $15.7 Billion 
Restaurant operators who used their PPP loans to pay qualified expenses didn’t have to worry about surprise federal tax bills because the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association got this loophole fixed at both the federal and state levels.

Business Liability Protection
WRA worked to get state legislation passed to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits due to COVID-19 – one of the first states to do so.

Free COVID-19 ServSafe Training Modules
The safety experts from the Association’s ServSafe training program immediately stepped in to create much needed COVID-19 training. The free courses have been accessed more than 1.3 million times.

$21.5 Million Restaurant Employee Relief Fund
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation partnered with celebrity chef Guy Fieri to establish the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF), which provided grants to more than 43,000 restaurant employees.

COVID-19 Operating Guidance and Resources for Restaurants
The WRA, along with the Association’s ServSafe training teams, stepped up to provide restaurants of all sizes with pandemic operating best practices. The COVID Resources continue to be updated as new science-based information becomes available.

Increased Consumer Confidence in On-Premises Dining 
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association created the Ready to Serve Safely Campaign and partnered with the National Restaurant Association on consumer ad campaigns welcoming diners back to their favorite local restaurants, highlighting the health and safety practices that operators and employees are implementing.

Education with the Ready to Serve Safely Program 
Consumers in Wisconsin can look for the Ready to Serve Safely and/or ServSafe Dining Commitment logos to know that the restaurant is committed to the program’s health and safety best practices and adhering to operating guidance.

Expanded ERTC to Support Employment
Employee Retention Tax Credits (ERTC) are key tax benefits used by many restaurants. Because of a change pursued by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association, restaurants can now receive up to $19,000 per eligible employee in ERTC across 2020 and 2021.

We’re All In Grants
Helped secure $64 million in state funding for small and medium sized restaurants and bars. 

Ongoing Efforts

Ordering Up Cocktails-To-Go
The WRA is working to allow cocktails-to-go, securing this lifeline already allowed in 32 states and DC. This proposal has passed the State Assembly and is currently being debated in the Senate. It will be one of the most significant changes to alcohol laws since Prohibition.

Delivery of Alcohol
As with cocktails-to go, there are ongoing efforts to allow the delivery of alcohol with safeguards built in for the normal face-to-face identification verification. Allowed in 40 other states, wouldn’t it be great to offer a six pack of beer with that pizza, or a bottle of wine with the Italian dinner delivered to people’s homes? Restaurants should be able to meet consumer demand through the sale of alcohol with their delivered food.

Permanent Repeal of the Personal Property Tax
In the 2017-2018 budget, a partial repeal of this onerous tax was accomplished. It is now time to finish the work and repeal the remainder of the Personal Property Tax.

September 1 School Start Date
WRA continues to protect the 21-year law that ensures that public K-12 schools start on or after September 1 each year. This law ensures Wisconsin families can take advantage of August’s warm weather for vacations and to allow teen workers to continue working. August is a much busier month for tourism in Wisconsin compared to June, so keeping the September 1 start date is imperative to help restaurants recover.

Let Us Know How We Can Help

WRA continues to support Wisconsin restaurants and represent the restaurant industry's interests. Let us know if there's something we can do to help! Email tkosbau@wirestaurant.org or call us at 608-270-9950.