By: Kimberly Houghton, Union Leader Correspondent
Leaders in the Granite State hospitality industry are stressing the need for another round of the Paycheck Protection Program to help them survive the winter months.
Even though the Duprey Service Company has built up equity, that won’t save it if business travel does not return to Nashua, Manchester and Concord, said Steve Duprey.
A report released Thursday shows that business travel is not expected to return to pre-COVID levels until late 2023, according to Duprey, who fears many hotels will not survive.
At the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, about 100 people were either furloughed or laid off because of the pandemic. Although Duprey tried to rehire as many as possible, there wasn’t enough business to bring everyone back.
The loss of business travelers is not only impacting the hotel industry, but restaurants and entertainment venues as well.
During a conference call with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Friday, restaurant owners in New Hampshire expressed the need for more flexibility to spend their PPP money on retroactive purchases related to COVID-19, such as tent rentals, outdoor table and chair rentals, indoor protective barriers and more.
Tom Boucher of Great New Hampshire Restaurants said his company will spend about $500,000 by the end of the year on COVID-related expenses, including $30,000 on air purifiers.
In addition, he said Great New Hampshire Restaurants is expected to see a combined $1 million drop in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 compared to a year ago.
“We are going to need help. There is just not a question in my mind,” he said of New Hampshire restaurants. In 2020, he paid out no bonuses or dividends to his employees, he said.
Shaheen said she has not yet heard from the Senate majority leader or the White House about getting another PPP package done before the projected administration transition, which makes her concerned for the state’s hotels and restaurants.
“I know this is a challenging time for everybody,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen has called for the passage of the HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act, legislation she introduced that would allow many businesses within the industry to access a second round of PPP loans. To date, more than $2.5 billion in assistance has been disbursed to more than 25,000 businesses across the state.
Without outdoor dining, most restaurants are lucky if they are breaking even right now, said Mike Somers, of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.
“We are going to need this next round of relief,” he told Shaheen, adding that as COVID-19 cases rise, customers likely will have greater hesitation about dining out.
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