(The Center Square) – A new report says restaurants and shops are reeling from the coronavirus closings across the country, which comes as no surprise to restaurant and shop owners in Wisconsin. 

Yelp released a report this month that highlights which businesses have been hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdowns and public health orders. 

Unsurprisingly, restaurants, bars, large shopping centers, and mom and pop shops have suffered the most. 

“The restaurant industry continues to be among the most impacted with an increasing number of closures – totalling 32,109 closures as of August 31, with 19,590 (61%) of these business closures indicated to be permanent,” the report states. “Retail and shopping follows closely behind restaurants with 30,374 total business closures, 17,503 (58%) of which are permanent. Similar to bars and nightlife, the share of permanent closures increased by 10% since July. Both men and women’s clothing, as well as home decor, have the highest rate of business closures.”

Kristine Hillmer, the president of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, knows those numbers too well. 

“In the next six months, if [restaurants] cannot start opening up and this is statewide, 33 percent of Wisconsin restaurants will not survive. If Congress is not able to provide some economic relief, 37% of Wisconsin restaurants will not survive,” Hillmer said. 

The only thing that has kept many restaurants in Wisconsin open has been their ability to seat people outside. But the weather will be turning soon, and Hillmer said outdoor seating in December and January is not feasible in any part of Wisconsin.  

 “Restaurants have been able to survive because they have been extending their premises outside. So whether it’s through a tent or their patio or supplementing their outdoor spaces, we know that’s not something they’re going to be able to continue to do long term,” Hillmer said. 

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association issued its own report, which concluded sales were 36% lower in August, compared to a year ago. The group also said that 68% of Wisconsin restaurant operators say they don’t expect their sales to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months.

Hillmer said that’s led to a loss of jobs. The WRA says current staffing levels are only 71% of what they would typically be, and that 44% of Wisconsin restaurant operators do not expect their staffing levels to return to pre-coronavirus levels within the next six months.

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.