Waffle House CEO slams coronavirus lockdowns for pulverizing restaurant industry

Talia Kaplan
·2 min read

Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer slammed coronavirus lockdowns on Monday, telling “Varney & Co.” they are “devastating” to those in the restaurant industry.

“Our people have been decimated by these restrictions,” Ehmer told host Stuart Varney.

“And when you look at the states where people are not allowed to work, we’re taking away people’s livelihood, we’re taking away their hope for a future, especially this time of the year, people can’t consider buying their kids Christmas presents.”

“It’s devastating to the people and the people can’t wait until spring,” he stressed.

Ehmer made the comments as numerous governors throughout the country have reinstated safety precautions in recent weeks to combat the rapid spike in coronavirus cases just weeks before large family gatherings and getaway trips traditionally planned for the holidays.

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As of Monday, nearly 13.4 million cases have been reported in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University. Public health officials fear holiday travel will exacerbate its spread.

Preventive measures have included limiting indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants.

In Illinois, for example, bars and restaurants have to reduce party size from 10 to six individuals. Indoor and outdoor gatherings are also limited to 10 individuals.

And in certain counties in the state, bars or restaurants are limited to outside service only. All outside bar and restaurant services have to close at 11 p.m. All bar patrons should be seated at tables outside and multiple parties will not be allowed to be seated together.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear recently announced new restrictions, including shutting down indoor dining at restaurants.

“Our folks, other people in the restaurant industry and other industries, they just want to work,” Ehmer said. “They want to work safely.”

“We’ve proven we can work safely and we want government leaders to pay attention to the fact that not every one of these situations is the same and a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work,” he continued.

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Ehmer noted that his restaurants’ dining rooms are not currently open 24 hours a day. He also pointed out that while in some states it has been mandated that restaurants close by a certain hour, Waffle House has “voluntarily shut down our dining rooms at night because we recognize in some circumstances the alcohol does play a role in terms of people socializing a little too much and crowds gathering.”

He said that he thinks every situation should be judged individually and stressed the need for restaurants to be allowed to “do what we do and what we’ve been trained to do.”

Ehmer said his restaurants “have not defied any authorities yet.”

When Varney asked him if he plans to, Ehmer said, “It’s hard to answer a hypothetical,” while stressing that currently “we have not defied any government rules.”

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Fox News’ Daniella Genovese contributed to this report.

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