Guam restaurants say they are still hurting from Covid impact
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
As tourist arrivals remain well below pre‐pandemic levels and the local economy reels with the impacts of high inflation, the Guam Restaurateur Collective has called on the government to consider additional assistance to the industry to prevent further closures of eating and drinking establishments that would lead to a loss of jobs.
The Guam Restaurateur Collective represents over 1,500 hospitality employees that broadly impact an additional 5,500 family members. This makes the restaurant industry the largest single private-sector employer.
Many of these establishments continue to cope with a revenue loss of up to 60 percent since the pandemic, while faced with rising costs in food, utilities, and other operating expenses. This has created the perfect storm that has hit the restaurant industry especially hard.
Darren Talai, a local restaurant operator and vice chairperson of the Collective, said “the restaurant industry is in a very fragile state as many operators try to find a balance to manage rising costs, maintaining jobs, and ultimately, keeping the doors open. The LEAP [Local Employer Assistance Program] did a lot to help the industry through the toughest time, but recovery has been slow and many operators have exhausted those funds.”
The group has been meeting with senators, executive officials and the Guam Economic Development Authority to discuss proposals that could provide funding assistance for businesses that are at the tipping point.
“The restaurant industry is a foundation of our local economy. So many professionals in our community have roots in the industry through their first jobs and attribute their success to the skills learned from those experiences," said
Brian Artero, the group's chairman.
"Our families celebrate occasions at restaurants. Visitors remark on many of their experiences in our restaurants. Support of the restaurant industry has multiplier effects that will simultaneously help our people and our economy," he added.
The collective said that while the administration has indicated support for additional assistance to at-risk businesses, any program would need supplemental funding from the legislature similar to the LEAP.