Hundreds gather in NYC's Times Square to rally for virus-battered restaurant industry

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A swarm of New York City community members gathered alongside struggling restaurant workers and owners in Manhattan on Tuesday morning to plead for financial relief in order to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

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Hundreds of people filled Times Square, many with signs in hand, to demand more support from the city and state for the restaurant industry.

Times Square in Manhattan (NYC Hospitality Alliance)

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The New York State Latino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge Association (NYSRBLA), which hosted the rally, is calling for rent and insurance relief, grants and loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, local and state funding programs and grants as well as for "help from our local leaders" to get them through the tough times.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance and guest speaker at the rally, said it's "now or never."

“When considering the cost in terms of jobs and revenue, the impact of empty storefronts on neighborhoods and other local businesses, and the repercussions for tourism and spending from commuters and daily visitors, the government can’t afford to not save the industry," Rigie said in a statement to FOX Business.

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The rally kicked off just one day after restaurants and bars were faced with yet another obstacle: a temporary ban on indoor dining. It was a harsh reality for an industry that was able to stem at least some of its losses by opening up the indoor service just a few months ago at minimal capacity. Now, they are forced to lean on takeout and delivery models as well as outdoor dining, which owners fear won't be sustainable.

Times Square in Manhattan (NYC Hospitality Alliance)

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"We don't see a path forward," Bobby Digi, co-owner of O'Henry's Publick House in Staten Island, previously told FOX Business.

The restriction was imposed to stem the surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations throughout the area, which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo fears could get worse before it gets better.

Cuomo had repeatedly warned that the measure would take effect if hospitalization rates didn't stabilize.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also warned that the city could even face a “full shutdown” as COVID-19 metrics remain high.

Times Square in Manhattan (NYC Hospitality Alliance)

Still, the restriction is the latest in a list of mounting woes for the heavily battered industry.

Even before the latest restrictions, two-thirds of New York restaurants already said they are likely to close by the end of the year without a comprehensive relief package for restaurants, according to the association, citing a report from the New York State Restaurant Association.

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According to a recent survey conducted by the NYC Hospitality Alliance, 88% of businesses reported they were unable to pay full rent in October indicating "that the sector’s crisis is far from over."

"We won’t survive another shutdown!" NYSRBLA said. "We need to send a message: No more shutdowns."

Representatives from the offices of de Blasio and Cuomo did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.

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