A Policy Evaluation of Restaurant Closures as a Policy Response in the COVID-19 Pandemic

19 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2021 Last revised: 6 Feb 2021

Date Written: February 5, 2021

Abstract

Restaurants have remained closed or faced significant restrictions on indoor dining in Michigan and Illinois, with California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York and Oregon having indoor dining restrictions that have varied significantly by county or city (Appendix A). As a Michigan resident, who studies housing affordability, I have become increasingly concerned for the short- and long-term welfare economically of those employed in the restaurant industry and those sectors that support restaurants. Thus, I decided to drill down on the data that has been collected and research that has been published or released over the past ten months regarding the decision to close indoor dining while other businesses in which people interact remain open. Initially, the decision makes sense. In restaurants, people stay for longer periods of time than they do in grocery stores or other retail outlets. People cannot keep masks on while eating as they can while working out or shopping. Thus, restaurants do seem different than other businesses. Early in the pandemic, closing them to encourage compliance with stay at home orders likely made sense, especially with the support that the CARES Act as well as state funds offered displaced workers. But after ten months, we know more about the virus, about human behavior in this pandemic, and about how outbreaks are actually occurring. Thus, in considering the actual available data on COVID-19 spread and incidence, the decision is uncorroborated by data. This paper is not arguing that the virus does not spread in restaurants or even that restaurants are not higher risk locations that other places that bring people together in large numbers. The findings of this paper, a review of the research studying restaurants and their closures, assert that there is not certain data that demonstrates a causal relationship between COVID-19 spread and restaurant patronage. The decision to privilege the public health concern of the pandemic over the economic impacts of chosen solutions is not supported by current data. Therefore, from a public policy evaluation perspective, the decision to mandate restaurant closures as a solution to COVID-19 spread is unwarranted based on available data.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, public policy, restaurants, economics

Suggested Citation

Beard, Virginia, A Policy Evaluation of Restaurant Closures as a Policy Response in the COVID-19 Pandemic (February 5, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3769516 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3769516

Virginia Beard (Contact Author)

Hope College ( email )

United States
6163957545 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hope.edu

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