Each week, Restaurant Hospitality gathers five stories from the independent restaurant world that you may have missed.
Here’s your list for the week of May 3:
- Hakkasan Group is acquired by Tao Group Hospitality
Tao Group Hospitality, which operates restaurants, nightclubs, lounges and other venues across the U.S. and overseas, said last week it has acquired Hakkasan Group, which operates several locations of its namesake restaurant and other restaurants and nightlife destinations globally.
The combined company operates 61 entertainment, dining and nightlife venues in 22 markets across five continents. Its brands include Tao Group Hospitality’s Tao, Marquee, Lavo, Beauty & Essex, Avenue, Cathédrale and Koma, as well as Hakkasan Group’s Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Omnia, Ling Ling, Jewel, Casa Calavera, Herringbone and Searsucker, among others.
Tao Group also recently launched a virtual Italian concept in New York called Luchini Italian, which it operates out of its Lavo Italian Kitchen restaurant.
Las Vegas-based Hakkasan Group had previously been the subject of acquisition rumors, including a report in 2018 that the company was the subject of buyout interest from Spain-based hospitality company Pacha Group and investment firm Certares. Earlier that year, a proposed merger of Hakkasan with Los Angeles-based hotel, restaurant and nightlife venue operator SBE fell through, Hakkasan officials said at the time.
- As some states and cities lift COVID restrictions, others shut down again.
Several states and local municipalities have begun easing restrictions on restaurant dining as new COVID-19 cases have declined in those areas, while others have moved to tighten restrictions as positive cases trended in the opposite direction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week also issued new interim recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated, saying it is safe to dine unmasked outdoors with members of multiple households. The CDC cautioned, however, that even fully vaccinated individuals should take precautions in indoor public settings, and in certain crowded outdoor settings and venues, by wearing a mask.
Some states, including Louisiana and Pennsylvania, followed suit by lifting some mask restrictions.
In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards last week said the state’s mask mandate would be lifted for certain businesses, including restaurants and bars. However, he continued to recommend wearing masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings, noting this was especially important for people who have not been vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday suspended local COVID emergency orders and signed a proposal that limits the government’s ability to impose mask requirements and other social distancing measures, as well as prohibiting “vaccine passports.” The moves come as Florida’s COVID case rate is steadily rising.
Last week, the Florida state legislature authorized a bill that would make to-go alcohol delivery permanent.
- Illinois lawmakers consider bill to prevent third-party delivery firms from listing restaurants without permission.
Last week, Illinois state Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) introduced a bill that would prohibit third-party delivery players from using the likeness, registered trademark or intellectual property belonging to a merchant without obtaining written consent.
Under the proposed bill, companies would be fined $1,000 per day for violations, and restaurants could recover damages, or at least $5,000.
- Attorneys offer advice on what to do if your Paycheck Protection Program loan is not forgiven.
The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, created by the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act, in March 2020, has brought much needed relief to the restaurant industry.
The PPP came with a waiver of the affiliation rules set by the U.S. Small Business Administration to ensure more restaurants were able to take advantage of the financial assistance made available by the CARES Act and the additional assistance made available by the December 2020 Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues, or the Economic Aid Act.
But for those that survived with PPP loans, the vast majority of borrowers still do not know whether their loans will be forgiven. The SBA is currently reviewing nearly 200,000 applications for forgiveness while expecting to review another 2.3 million applications in the coming months.
The uncertainty confronting borrowers as to whether their loans will be forgiven and, if so, in what amount, is, of course, unfortunate. Fortunately, there is certainty in terms of what a borrower can do now to prepare for the SBA’s forgiveness decision. Furthermore, a borrower can be certain that it does not have to accept an adverse decision from the SBA that denies forgiveness, but can instead appeal the decision.
Read more: What to do if your PPP loan isn’t forgiven
- Virginia’s first minimum wage increase towards $12 an hour went into effect May 1
On May 1, the first in a series of wage increases voted on by the state legislature in 2020 went into effect for the state of Virginia. For the first time in 10 years, workers in Virginia saw the federally mandated $7.25 an hour minimum wage increase to $9.50 an hour. The next increase will be Jan. 1, 2022 when the minimum wage will increase to $11 per hour and finally settle at $12 an hour on Jan. 1, 2023.
The measure passed once Democrats took control of the state legislature after the November 2020 election. Legislators in Virginia plan to vote on $15 an hour minimum wage in the 2026 session after a study is conducted Del. Jeion Ward (D-Hampton) told 8News.
The industry is divided, however.
“That could very much be a breaking point for a lot of small business owners,” said National Federation of Independent Business State Director Nicole Riley. “They very likely won’t hire back as many people as they’ve had to lay off or furlough because of the pandemic. You’ll see them cut hours.”
“We advocated for raising Virginia’s minimum wage, which was long stuck at $7.25 an hour, and look forward to the economic boost from this increase,” said Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. “Businesses depend on local customers who make enough to buy what they are selling. And business models built on fair pay, low employee turnover and reliable customer service deliver more lasting success.”
The District of Columbia and eight states have already enacted a $15 minimum wage: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. The Delaware Senate passed a $15 minimum wage in March and it is under consideration in the Delaware House.