On Monday (5.18), President Trump along with members of his administration and family met with representatives of the restaurant industry at the White House. During the round table discussion, Trump frequently pushed tax deductions as a fix while the industry delegates lobbied hard for changes to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).
In addition to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were among the White House delegates. The restaurant contingency was spearheaded by National Restaurant Association (the other NRA) Interim CEO Marvin Irby and Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) co-founders Will Guidara and Sean Feeney.
In a rare show of unity between the indy restos and corporate hospitality, the restaurant industry unanimously advocated for changes to the PPP’s timeline. Previously, industry leaders have explained that the PPE’s two month timespan does not work for their businesses—businesses that will be unable to reopen fully for several months more.
“Mr. President, the Payroll Protection Programs would be a godsend if we could make one change, if we could extend the time we have to spend the proceeds,” pleaded Irby today. “In too many communities today, eight weeks is just enough time.”
Other leaders echoed the sentiment that the eight weeks allocated to spend the funds should be extended to 24 weeks–no new money was requested. Additionally, they asked that the June 30 forgiveness deadline be moved to October 31.
“We need those fixes now. Like me, I have it [PPP]. I can’t use it. I’m in the clock zone of eight weeks,” noted Feeney.
POTUS acknowledged the suggestion several times, but frequently responded by suggesting tax breaks.
“Deductibility is amazing, but we need to build the house first,” replied Will Guidara. “Deductibility great but we need to get the restaurants open first.”
After informally polling the attendees (who unanimously supported the extension), the President conceded some ground on the issue. He asked Mnuchin about logistics.
“We’re working on a technical fix that we have bipartisan support to extend that, I’m not sure that it’s for that long, but we’re working on it,” answered Mnuchin.
By the press Q&A at the end of the meeting, Trump seemed to embrace the idea. “I think that what they’re asking for is very reasonable. I mean, we’re going to have to go and get it approved. We’ve saved and will continue to save the restaurant industry.”
Restauranteur and chef Thomas Keller was also at the meeting. He attempted to deliver a heartfelt address about the importance of cooking as a form of nurture. However, said monologue devolved into an odd discussion about artisanal butter. Keller tried to explained seasonality and terroir while Trump seemed more interested in whether small dairy farmers offered cheaper prices.
The president also suggested that recent medical advances would make the entire discussion moot. “My news negates what you said. My news means you be back in business like that [instantly].”
Medical and economic experts disagree. Even Moderna’s promising vaccine will still require many months of additional testing.