COVID-19 stripped millions from Rockford, Illinois, restaurants

Will Kreznick

Food and beverage tax revenue dropped 15% Some restaurants report 4th quarter losses up to 60% ROCKFORD — Rathskeller Rockford reopened its doors under new ownership Oct. 4, breathing new life into an iconic northwest side eatery that had closed the previous December.  While traditional German cuisine, baked goods and […]

  • Food and beverage tax revenue dropped 15%
  • Some restaurants report 4th quarter losses up to 60%

ROCKFORD — Rathskeller Rockford reopened its doors under new ownership Oct. 4, breathing new life into an iconic northwest side eatery that had closed the previous December. 

While traditional German cuisine, baked goods and cold beer are once again being served up in the shadow of the Auburn and Main streets roundabout, business is still hindered by restrictions put into place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I would say given the circumstances, we’re doing OK,” Rathskeller Rockford co-owner Jonathan Griffin said. “The reality of restaurants is that the majority of them can only make a profit with 85% occupancy. We’re far below that as far as occupancy, in terms of seating capacity.”

The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated $57.4 million out of the Rockford restaurant and bar industry in 2020, according to food and beverage tax data.

City officials were expecting worse. The 15% decline in food and beverage tax revenue last year amounts to one half of the city’s initial forecast and, while some restaurant owners were devastated by losses as great as 60%, others were propped up by increased curbside service and delivery.

“It certainly wasn’t as bad as we expected it to be,” said Carrie Hagerty, the city’s finance director. “It still is a significant drop from the previous year, but still well below what we had budgeted as far as revenue goes. It obviously reflects the efforts to support local restaurants and I think it’s pretty obvious that people still continued to order carry-outs and support their favorite local businesses throughout the pandemic.”

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