Restaurant owner breaks down exactly how much money he's losing during COVID-19 shutdowns

Owning a business as the coronavirus pandemic rages on can come at a costly price, and one Los Angeles restaurant owner broke down the numbers of keeping his business alive in 2020.

Dustin Lancaster, an owner of several restaurants and businesses in Los Angeles county, revealed on social media that his bar was on track to make $8,500 in sales in December, but after labor, utilities and other costs, would have about $1,500 to pay $10,000 in monthly rent. That’s a stinging loss of about $8,500 this month.

“Unable to pay that, we will add the balance to the constantly accumulating stack of debt we incur every single month,” Lancaster wrote in a post Tuesday, which has since received hundreds of comments.

“Our weekly sales is equivalent to what one day of sales used to be,” Lancaster told FOX TV Stations. “What do you do when you’re sitting on six-figure debts?”

Lancaster revealed that he already lost two businesses during the pandemic. “I have the other ones just hanging on by a thread. It’s been such a rollercoaster,” he added.

This comes as Los Angeles County and nearly 85% of California faces new restrictions due to stay-at-home orders. Under state order, 33 million residents of California have entered into regional shutdowns in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus as ICU capacity has dipped below 15% in most regions of the state. Restaurants remain open for takeout or delivery only.

According to the Associated Press, the total number of people who are receiving state-provided unemployment aid rose for the first time in three months to 5.8 million, the government said, from 5.5 million, suggesting “that some companies have sharply pulled back on hiring.”

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“Maybe it is safer to shut down, then please help us,” Lancaster said. “You have to pay us to stay at home. You have to pay us to pay our employees to ask them to stay at home. That’s what we need.”

Lancaster utilized government funding, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, but he says this only got him through two months of rental payments.

“That’s not enough,” he noted.

Lancaster said more could be done to help businesses survive, pointing to the Restaurants Act of 2020, a bill to provide grant money to restaurants. The act was passed by the Democratic-controlled House in October, but has not been taken up by the Senate.

It remains unclear whether the Restaurants Act will be a part of a stimulus relief package. Members of Congress and the Trump administration are still debating a $900 billion relief package that could extend government programs into the spring season.

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“A bipartisan group of senators has proposed to extend the supplemental aid for four months and add $300-a-week in federal jobless aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday proposed a one-time round of $600 relief checks — half the $1,200 that was provided in the spring,” the Associated Press wrote.

A jogger runs past closed outdoor restaurant seating decorated with American flags on the first day of new stay-at-home orders on December 7, 2020 in West Hollywood, California.

“It makes me sick to my stomach to look at my businesses that are really just barely scraping by,” Lancaster shared. “I want to be able to run my business, and the reality is that we can’t.”

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The new lockdowns come as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across California and across the country, reaching recording-breaking numbers.

Los Angeles County reported 3,299 people hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday and 23% of them were in intensive care. New COVID-19 admissions were approaching 500 a day and health officials estimated that could jump to 700 a day by next week.

On Thursday, the U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday, putting the country just one step away from launching a vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans. Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee’s recommendation.