It was November of 2016 and I had just been flown down to the Rio Grande Valley on the southern tip of Texas. I had been working in Upstate New York at WICZ-TV. A local TV station, KRGV, brought me down to “The Lone Star State” to anchor the 2016 election and then cover the news on the border. Life in south Texas was different from life in Upstate New York. I have to admit, it would be an understatement to say I was experiencing some culture shock. I was in a place that was 85 percent Hispanic and a long way away from my home in the northeast. I spoke some Spanish, but not enough to have a good conversation. As a 6-foot-3, 250-pound, blonde-haired, blue-eyed white male, I stood out like a sore thumb and figured I would never really fit in in my new home.
In order to make me feel happy and comfortable in this part of the nation, a cameraman I was working with decided to take me to lunch at a local small business, “Mi Taco! Ponchos.” It was a popular authentic Mexican restaurant in McAllen, Texas. It was known for its brightly colored buildings and customers practically hanging from the rafters. My experience there was amazing. The food was incredible, the service was friendly and the ambience was lively. After this stop at the restaurant, I was feeling a little more happy and comfortable in my new home. It is a fond memory for me.
Last week, I drove by the location and saw that its signs were gone, the insides were empty and someone had written “closed” on the windows with what looked like a bar of soap. That lively ambience I spoke of had turned into ghosts of the past. “Mi Taco! Ponchos” was now one of the many casualties of the pandemic lockdown. From what I saw, it was not something that appeared likely to come back any time soon.
If we end up with a Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, possibly Charles Schumer-era, this will be more common. These leaders will have a hesitance to re-open and small businesses will suffer even more, for a longer period of time. Add to that, Biden’s talk of forcing these restaurants to install Plexiglas inside makes matters worse. Had Biden ever run a business, he would realize the cost of installing Plexiglas is something that comes out of the profit jar. A floor standing sneeze guard is priced at $99, according to joydisplays.com. A small business owner who is forced to install about twenty of those will probably not be accepting their paycheck for the next two or three weeks, as if they haven’t struggled enough already.
Then there’s something that always happens when a liberal regime takes power in Washington, taxes go up and regulations rise. So look at the equation here, a restaurant that has been crushed financially in 2020 wants to reopen with limited funds. They are being told they have to install costly Plexiglas, they know well their taxes are going to go up and they will have to adhere to liberal policy ideas put into place by people who have never run a successful business in their lives! They can’t do it. It will mean the loss of a lot of places like “Mi Taco! Ponchos.”. In fact, in September, Yelp projected 61 percent of restaurants that closed during the pandemic will close permanently.
Losing restaurants is more than losing great food and ambience. It’s losing the dreams of the owners and their staff. It’s a loss for those who work there, often younger people learning the tricks of the trade. They may dream of opening their own restaurant or maybe another type of small business. Their jobs at places such as a local restaurant teach them lessons that are better for them than anything they could possibly learn in a classroom.
Losing restaurants also hurts the community surrounding them. People have their favorite places to go after a local high school game, after church or for lunch while on the job. They see the same sign and same building every day when driving home or going out on errands. By the way, the more money a restaurant makes, the more money the staff has in their pockets to go out and spend elsewhere. It makes no sense for a political power play to take that from the day-to-day lives of average Americans.
Now, we cannot forget that the system is set up where a business leases a building with the hopes of doing well. If the business fails, then a new one signs the lease and tries to do well itself. Of course, the deal on the lease will probably be pretty good for the new business. It’s a thing of beauty in many ways. But it won’t be so beautiful any time soon. Why? Where will the new business be found? After what restaurants have been through since March, who would want to lease one of these old facilities? Is there anyone who would dare try going into business in food service with a liberal administration in power?
It would be nice if our politicians thought about it like this. But if we end up with leaders like Biden, Harris, Pelosi and Schumer, we cannot expect that anytime soon.
Frank McCaffrey is Director of Americans for Limited Government News and a contributing editor to the Daily Torch.