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Texas Restaurant Association CEO warns that River Walk restaurants are 'sitting ducks' amid pandemic


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San Antonio's River Walk restaurants are low on cash and need a financial lifeline soon to avoid a wave of closures, Texas Restaurant Association CEO Emily Williams Knight told the San Antonio Business Journal.

Willams Knight recently met with downtown restaurant operators to gain more insight into their plight during the now six-month-long COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was so painfully shocking. I felt the helplessness that these business owners feel just sitting there with no assistance in sight,” Willams Knight told SABJ. “It’s almost unconscionable that you can have an industry that’s been embattled for six months with government mandates and closures … and somehow think it’s all going to be OK.”

While some businesses were able to take advantage of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans earlier this summer, many say that money is long gone. New measures before Congress could provide a new round of relief funding, but those efforts are mired in partisan deadlock.

Although some San Antonio restaurants have adapted to curbside service, Willams Knight lamented to the Business Journal that river-level establishments don’t have that option.

“They’re sitting ducks, just waiting," she said. The tourists aren’t coming. The conventions aren’t coming.”

In March, the San Antonio Express-News reported that four of the largest scheduled conventions for 2020 — poised to bring over 26,000 attendees to the Alamo City — bailed out over coronavirus concerns in just one month.

“It’s easy to say, 'If those restaurants close, we’ll just replace them.' It doesn’t work that way. You have brands that have been there for 50-plus years,” Willams Knight told SABJ. “We are in an iceberg moment. The long-term implications for San Antonio and also the state are so significant.”

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