The State of the American Restaurant, City by City

New York City, San Francisco, Honolulu are still down over 80% from a year ago in terms of “seated diners.” Then there is the “LN-shaped” recovery in Pittsburgh.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Six months into the Pandemic, restaurants that haven’t given up yet are still in survival mode. In many places, dining outside has been allowed for weeks or months. That’s a problem for restaurants that don’t have any space outside. In other places, indoor dining is allowed, but only at reduced capacity, which is a killer in the tough restaurant business.

One restaurant owner who is doing fairly well – he has a corner restaurant in San Francisco with wide sidewalks on both sides, and all his tables fit outside – told me that a sushi chef he knows with a tiny sushi place that seats only a few people switched to takeout, and suddenly there were no more limits to how many people he could feed, and his business boomed, and he hired another sushi chef to keep up.

There are a few winners. Those that manage to be open and have enough room outside are busy and hard to get into. Others restaurants gave up.

Inside dining at restaurants in California can start on Monday, but only at 25% or 50% of capacity, depending on county. No restaurant can survive for long operating on Friday and Saturday nights at 25% or 50% capacity.

In the US, about 75% of the restaurants that took reservations before the pandemic are now taking reservations again, up from zero in April, according to data from OpenTable which provides online reservation services for 60,000 restaurants. Back on July 1, already 65% of the restaurants were taking reservations again, but then new outbreaks spreading across the country, particularly in the South, triggered some retrenching (chart via OpenTable):

The “seated diners”

Another measure, “seated diners,” shows how many people actually sit down in restaurants to eat, drink, and be merry. This is a measure of the business volume restaurants are doing.

OpenTable provides data on seated diners, whether they’re walk-ins or had made reservations online or by calling, based on a broad sample of 20,000 restaurants that shared that information with OpenTable. It compares daily “seated diners” on the same weekday in the same week last year.

Overall for the US, there was the plunge to -100% (meaning zero seated diners), then the recovery, then the resurgence of the virus that caused some backtracking, and a renewed but more gradual recovery. Six months into the Pandemic, “seated diners” on August 27 were still down 47% from the same weekday in the same week last year (year-over-year, seven-day moving average):

Cities in the Midwest:

The chart below shows five major cities in the Midwest for which OpenTable provides data. The bold red line is the US average for reference. As of August 27, the number of seated diners is down the least in Cincinnati (-26%, 7-day moving average), and down the most in Chicago (-65%, 7-day moving average):

Cities on the East Coast:

Pittsburgh is an interesting case (black line in the chart below). If you want to find a letter for the type of recovery in Pittsburgh, it would be two letters: the “LN-shaped” recovery.

First, the plunge in seated diners in March; then the flat part when they remained closed; then the recovery starting in early June. But soon, Covid cases surged, amid indications that people partying in indoor venues were infecting each other, and then infecting others afterwards, and by early July, restaurants were shut down again. This caused the number of seated diners to plunge briefly to zero (-100%), before restaurants could reopen. But this phase of the recovery has been slower, and the 7-day moving average as of August 27 is still below where it had been in late June.

New York City’s daily number of seated diners is still down 83% (7-day moving average), a notch higher than San Francisco and Honolulu, which we will get to in a moment:

Cities in the South:

The chart of the cities in the South is kind of wild – in part because of New Orleans (spiky brown line). And it has to do with Hurricane Barry last year.

On July 10 and 11, 2019, most restaurants in New Orleans shut down as Barry was heading for the Louisiana coast. So in the year-over-year comparisons of seated diners, the daily number for July 10 and July 11, 2020, when quite a few restaurants were open, spiked respectively by +83% and +140%. The 7-day moving average smoothened out the spike somewhat, but it remains huge — a result of a hurricane last year and not a major city-wide food-extravaganza this year:

Cities in the West and Hawaii:

There are two cities in the West and Hawaii where restaurants are worse off than in New York City: San Francisco and Honolulu. For both of them, the 7-day moving average of seated diners is still down 88% year-over-year. Both of them are big tourist destinations. Some tourists are driving into San Francisco, and a few are flying in, but not many. And Hawaii has essentially shut down its tourist business. So tourist-focused restaurants face that additional problem.

Al-fresco dining in San Francisco is limited by lack of sidewalk space or parking space for many restaurants. The City closed a few streets to traffic, so that restaurants there can offer outside seating, and that’s wonderful and vibrant and a lot of fun. But it’s not enough. Starting next week, there will be some limited indoor dining, and the curve should tick up further, but this recovery is going to take a long time (US in bold red):

All this data from OpenTable is based on restaurants where you can make reservations, not fast-food restaurants. They’re pricier than fast-food restaurants, and the staff is often specialized and fairly well-paid, including from tips on tickets that can be hefty. Most of the food and liquidity these restaurants serve originated in the US.

Money spent in restaurants mostly stays in the US, unlike money spent on consumer goods that are imported from another country. So stimulus money spent in restaurants does more for the economy, particularly the local economy, than stimulus money spent on imported gadgets (and eating in a favorite restaurant is food for the soul in these trying times).

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  131 comments for “The State of the American Restaurant, City by City

  1. Tom says:

    Surprise, surprise.

    Eating (and even more so) alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions… Encouraging them to throw caution to the wind.

    The numbers suggest that people seem to get that for the most part. So, since contrary to the ranting of the buffoon in chief, Covid is not just “going away”, maybe restaurants will continue to wither in the vine.

    When this is all over new ones will spring up as people go to them again. This is one of the few things that seem to make sense in this “price discovery has been outlawed” economy.

    • Old School says:

      From a personal finance view anyone with consumer debt probably shouldn’t be eating out anyway except for a very special occasion. It’s about 3X preparing food for yourself and if you have consumer debt you are borrowing for a one hour experience.

      • Mickey says:

        Just sales taxes and gratuity add up to 25% or more where I live.

        Again, just talking about all in costs, not the experience or safety issues.

        Also think about alcohol where a beer can cost triple in a restaurant vs getting it at say costco. Appetizers too.

        I am a senior not receiving much in interest which is not yet a major concern but the pressure will be building. I use covered calls to generate cash flow but also been reducing exposures to stocks for obvious reasons.

        When the markets do correct And not quickly bounce, a lot of boomers will be cutting spending.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Totally agree with you on the first part OS, and we have done that, both ways, the last 25 years, splurging on ”eating out” when flush,,, and abstaining completely while we paid off the mortgage.
        Now wishing for more certainty/clarity on the current virus even, ”jonesing” to get back inside our favorite place, or will go to their very nice outside once the weather is cool enough — just the opposite of SF, though I do remember well walking all over that city in the summer fog in jeans and a single shirt, ”back in the sixties” when it was safe to walk anywhere ya wanted there.

      • davcud says:


    • M says:

      One thing that Trump does not want you to realize that will dampen attendance at all outdoor restaurants (etc.) once it becomes more widely understood is that this virus is reportedly capable of staying airborne in the air for hours and spreads 26 feet+. Coupled with the risk of re-infection, once genetic tracing (via which the provenance of an infection can be traced, because genetic changes in a virus are regular, so geneticists can determine the specific, parent Covid 19 virus of various infections as coming from a particular restaurant/business, as opposed to another mutation of the Covid 19 virus) begins in earnest, expect to see many, many lawsuits.

      That will affect all of those companies that still have fully enclosed spaces and those that have less than 26 feet of spacing but do not provide adequate masks: reckless employers (who did not take enough precautions on the theory that their poor employees would not be able to prove that the virus that killed/harmed them came from their employment), restaurants, trains, airlines, busing companies, taxis, Lift/Uber, etc. Remember that reinfection has now been proven to happen and at least one of the reinfected became even more severely ill the second time.

      Thus, there will be no “health passports:” no one (recovered or never infected) is truly safe and may not be safe for long even after the vaccines come out. I hope that I and those scientists are wrong. It is really shocking that a developed country like the USA could still have failed to open factories to manufacture adequate protective equipment many MONTHS after this pandemic started.

      I was told by doctors and nurses that I know that hospitals require them to wear the same N95 masks for weeks or for nurses, one month. Since the buffoon could have ordered emergency manufacture of N95 masks in the USA months ago, that is just astonishing incompetence on the part of our government.

      I really should stop reading these scientific articles to seek better and feel the bliss of ignorant oblivion, like Trump’s ignorance and constant lies provide his followers.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        Scientists have been tracking the genetic heritage of multiple strains of this virus since it’s inception. Check out Doctors and nurses reusing N95 masks have facilities for daily, if not hourly disinfection: UV, H2O2, etc. My single practice dentist has two disinfecting machines.

        • M says:

          Scientists are tracking the mutations of this virus regularly, that is true. However, I am talking about widely available, cheap tests available at most labs for mutations.

          My understanding is that the tracking now is brute force work albeit with the techniques developed since the human genome was sequenced. Quiagen and other companies are now preparing toolboxes and software, so that minute Covid mutations can be tracked more and more easily and much more cheaply at local labs. See

          That will enable law first to ascertain whether an employee got the infection from other employees at a particular employee for a modest fee. Right now, without such tools, the fees for sequencing for tracking mutations would be huge.

  2. Bob Hoye says:

    Outstanding coverage.
    The bureaucratic raid upon restaurants began, I guess in the 1990s, with the rule banning “second hand smoke”.
    Out of control control freaks.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Bob Hoye,

      When they banned smoking in restaurants, I started going a lot more to restaurants, and spending a lot more money in restaurants. Even back then, smokers were a small number of people that made life miserable for the majority of people. It was the best move EVER for restaurants. You piss off 15% of your customers; but 20% don’t care one way or the other; and 65% are ecstatic and spend a LOT More money. BEST MOVE EVER.

      • Michael Gorback says:

        Banning smoking in restaurants didn’t change how often I dined out or what I spent. It changed WHERE I dined. Restaurants that I avoided due to smoke exposure became viable options.

        Now with COVID-19 I want to sit outside, but guess where some restaurants allow smoking? Now I have a new set of no-go restaurants.

        I like how they make people smoke in the Box of Shame – those little glass rooms for smokers at the airport.

        • Joe Saba says:

          exactly – sorry wolf
          but this is different – now that they scared crapp out public
          ole folks have decided that they MIGHT GO OUT once in while
          but likely – like myself, have decided to COOK on GRILL MORE
          learning lots and buying PREMIUM products – saving so MUCH $$$$$
          tips should be for service only – not a way for restaurant owners to skimp on wages

        • SwissBrit says:

          Joe – exactly, a tip should not be expected, and certainly not needed for someones salary to be made acceptable.
          If restaurants can’t afford to pay waiting staff (or back of house) a decent wage, they need to either up their prices or go out of business.

        • George3490 says:

          True story about tipping. A popular restaurant I frequented decided to automatically add a 15% gratuity to all checks — essentially “increasing the prices,” as one commenter suggested.
          Holy cow!! The service slowed DRAMATICALLY. Especially the KITCHEN, believe it or not. Took forever to get even a salad. The entire staff had slowed to the pace of the slowest worker.
          The restaurant had to go back to the old way. Even with a line at the door, business was much less due to the slow turning of tables and their regulars (like me) had stopped coming.
          I have heard that this has happened other places as well.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Agree totally Wolf!
        And I further agree with all the movements to make ALL buildings smoke free, and move the smokers far enough away from the entrances so that one does not have to walk through a tunnel of smoke to get inside.
        With two parents and two grandparents dying way too young at least partly from smoking, I quit at 32 although habituated or addicted at age 8.
        Time and enough to ban all smoking, even though a case can be made for tobacco as a medicine for goats and horses, possibly even human with correct non smoking dosages.

      • hendrik1730 says:

        I agree. Smoking in public is a nasty habit spoiling the environment for his/her neighbours. And it’s beyond doubt unhealthy – and not only for the smoker.

      • GirlInOC says:

        I would never take my small kids into a restaurant with smoking. I was a kid when smoking was allowed & I HATED it. I remember my family moving tables to sit as far away as possible from a smoker, even mid-meal. Ugh #TeamNoSmoking

        • sunny129 says:

          For reducing the deaths due to cardiovascular diseases NOT SMOKING is one of the easiest choices for humans compared to improper diet, sedentary life style++!

          NOT excercising that choice is reflection of that mindset and NOTHING to do with constitition or any one’s rights or shaming.

          Sunny (ret MD)

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          @sunny – BS. The easiest reduction for disease is taking care with what you allow yourself to swallow. The second easiest that you listed is to get up off your butt and move for 30 minutes – every day.

      • Mike M. says:

        With the winter months on the way, outdoor seating will disappear in almost all states north of Florida. IMO.

      • Tony22 says:

        I didn’t spend a penny in North Beach bars until after they banned smoking. Aftwards, quite a bit. Owner of Gino and Carlos told me that their sales went up after the smoking ban as people stopped in for a drink after work instead of avoiding the barstool barnacles that nursed a drink through half a pack of cancer tubes.

      • Patrick Lewis says:

        back in the 80’s and 90’s i ran a contract cleaners, first thing in the morning the pubs and clubs stank of smoke and the job of getting the site clean was one of the very hardest we had, then the ban and within a few weeks the smell had gone so your right best thing that has happened. every time i went for dinner with my wife and kids always hated it with the smoke coming over from the other table, also on that note the haze has also gone the air is cleaner and you can see what your eating, only issue i have now is they banned smoking in offices but you can still smoke by the entrance what nonsense is that.

      • Keith says:

        Can’t say too much about dining out, but when they banned it in bars, my love life blossomed. It was an instant conversation starter about the “non-smoking nazis” while be able to offer up a kind light while we smokers were banished to the outdoors for our smoke break. One of the few unintended consequences that actually benefited me back in the 90s or so.

      • Irish govt. banned smoking in pubs in the early – mid 00s too Wolf, and the same boo-hoos from the smokers raised the roof. Again, best thing they ever did. Many pubs made (nice) outside smoking areas, and it only inconvenienced a minority of puffers.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        I myself have always resented the restaurants that pulled people off the street and forced folks inside smoky rooms. And I was glad to see the laws requiring people to eat with smokers withdrawn. However the anti-smoking laws are just another encroachment of government. If stupid restaurant owners continued to permit smoking they would have lost customers and gone out of business eventually. People flock to non-smoking venues. The question is not is smoking bad for you, that’s obvious. The question is how often do you want your government telling you how to live instead of allowing you to make your own choices.

    • Michael Gorback says:

      Your right to smoke ends where it infringes on my right to enjoy my meal and maintain my health.

      There’s no smoking in courthouses, hospitals, schools, etc. I think the Illuminati and the Elders of Zion have succeeded in their mass infiltration of society.

      • Lee says:

        You haven’t been t Australia, have you?

        See the places where smoking is banned……….even beaches, but the Feds keep raising cig tax resulting it being the item with the highest price increases in the inflation index.

    • MonkeyBusiness says:

      Inconsiderate people are the ones out of control. We are in the 21st century and people like you still don’t give a crap about second hand smoke. aMErica indeed.

    • Argus says:

      I used to severely limit dining out and going to bars when smoking was allowed. I found it extremely unpleasant. Many smokers used to hold their cigarettes away from their own faces so they would blow into someone else’s. I used to carry a small battery-operated fan in my purse so that I could blow the smoke away (preferably back to the smoker).
      I recall the days when smoking was allowed in movie houses and the film was viewed through a haze of smoke. Don’t get me started on the derisory ‘smoking’ and ‘non-smoking’ sections of aircraft…

  3. nodecentrepublicansleft says:

    I became a waiter when there was still smoking sections and you’re right, Wolf. The idea of a “section” that could be cordoned off from the rest of the restaurant was silly. The gross cigarette smoke polluted everybody’s meal and was a net loser for most diners/employees.

    I also worked in a night club when they still had smoking inside. There would invariably be a few hanging glasses that stayed up too long.

    When they finally got pulled for a drink, you’d see a yellow film on the inside of the glass from the billowing cig smoke that poured into it while it had been hanging up above the bar. Nasty, nasty, nasty.

    Imagine if we’d had competent national leadership through this crisis?!

  4. MCH says:

    Ouch, I don’t know how Hawaii’s restaurant business will survive. They locked down for five months, and C19 is on the rise again. The tourists are under quarantine when they get there. If they go out to eat, they’d be ratted out and sent home. Given how much of Hawaii’s economy is tourist based, the only thing you can call this is DEAD.

    It’s an interesting case that Hawaii does this half measure, and gets hit both coming and going. They should have either shut the whole thing down, or open up completely. This way, what they have is a half ass worst of all worlds. C19 cases are up, tourist industry still dead.

    • David G LA says:

      I don’t understand what you mean when you write “Hawaii does this half measure”. It has basically slammed its doors shut. Those arriving are not “tourists” (a tourist doesn’t stay for more than a week or so, for the most part.). They are returning long term residents. The state’s infection rate and death rate are among the lowest in the nation. So what are you talking about?

      • MCH says:

        Hawaii has tourists coming in, enough so that those that violate two weeks get turned in. More than a few cases, and making the news.

        Yep, sure low infection rate, just last week, second highest infection numbers detected in state since March. Their numbers are headed the wrong way.

        Isolation from tourist should be easy since there are only a few points of incoming, yet they elected to have tourists self quarantine for 2 weeks instead of just outright ban.

        Seriously, get your facts straight.

        • David G LA says:

          Fair points.

          I do know the rate has risen in the last few weeks, but it is still very low comparatively. It just seems to me that they really did shut it down compared to most other states. I suppose it could have been much stronger. these are hard calls for anyone to make, right? You have family members and residents that want to return home – that was the idea behind the 14 day quarantine.

        • MCH says:

          This was the entire point about having it both ways. They wanted tourists without the risks, so, they had this idiotic 14 day quarantine hoping that no one breaks the rules. Human nature itself should tell you how unrealistic that is. People are going to the beach if they go to Hawaii.

          So, now, they have minimal tourism, the economy is ****, and by the way, their infection rate is going the wrong way. I**** Ige is thinking lock down again. Best of both worlds, right?

          By the way, you do have a point that the overall infection rate is low, as is the numbers. But that’s not the right narrative, so, it is kind of funny how the politicians spins a convenient narrative, and then pray the media ignores it when it starts to go the wrong way. The perils of idiocy that comes from one party rule for most of 40+ years.

          Having lived there in my early years, the single party that controlled the place kept promising to diversifying away from tourism. Today, that same idiotic party is running the place and it’s more dependent on tourism than ever.

          Take that for what you will.

        • sunny129 says:

          Include the risk of flying in closed TIN spces (airplanes) for more than couple hrs (more from East coast)!

        • Lee says:

          Yeah, the worst of two worlds in Hawai’i – they’ve killed the tourist industry and everything connected with it and have an incomp government as well.

          As posted elsewhere on this site, tourist arrivals for the last month data tabulated was a fall of 98% compared to last year. The numbers will probably be down 99% after the new lockdown.

          The most recent government forecast for tourism states the following:

          “Hawaii will welcome 2.9 million visitors in 2020, a decrease of 71.9 percent from the 2019 level. Visitor arrivals will increase to 7.2 million in 2021, 8.3 million in 2022, and 9.4 million in 2023. Visitor spending will decrease 67.8 percent in 2020, then will increase 109.1 percent in 2021, 18.8 percent in 2022, and 14.7 percent in 2023.”

          If they really, really think that they’ll have 7.2 million visitors next year, they are living in nutso land.

          About the only thing keeping them going now is the military which will probably account for around 20% of state GDP up from 15% as a result in the decimation of the tourist industry.

      • Happy1 says:

        Hawaii has one of the highest daily rates per capita in the country at the moment. Yes, they did very well to start, but right now, they are doing worse than almost any other state.

    • roddy6667 says:

      Self-quarantine doesn’t work. It was tried in china for a short time, but people sneak out and infect others before they come down with symptoms. China then changed to a real quarantine. At the airport, still in force now, you don’t even get to go into the terminal. If you have any symptoms, you are put in an ambulance and sent to a special hospital. The others get on a bus to a quarantine hotel for a 14 day stay. You can’t leave your room. Meals are brought to you. Somebody comes around twice a day and checks you. A cop is always outside to make sure you don’t leave. After 14 days, you go back to the airport and resume your travel. 99% of the travelers are Chinese citizens returning from other countries.
      In the West, self-quarantine means go home to your family and infect them. There are no real places to separate the sick and suspected sick from the well, except in hospitals.

  5. Lee says:

    Just wait until the numbers from Honolulu come out after the latest two week lockdown was implemented…………………..probably going to zero.

  6. Anthony says:

    There is another side to this as far as businesses that have real customers and that is the actual cost of opening during the virus. Here in the UK, the costs have zoomed. A good example, hair dressers have to wear masks and provide hand cleanser, they also have to have signs and posters to tell people what to do(duh)…… One large poster cost my hair cutter £1000…($1300)

    One of our pub chains sell coffee with its food (if you want one, rather than booze) they do a free top up for any coffee , including things like Latte but they have to now give you a clean cup every time, sending the costs through the roof….they also have to have a person on the door to “check” you in…(another cost) and so on and so on………..

    • Keith says:

      Three guesses which types of businesses will be able to absorb and spread the costs out over locations. The ripples of the crushing of small business will be with us for a long time.

      During the lockdown phase, I have just gotten used to shopping online for everything except groceries and home improvement/lumber. Even now that we have opened up at 1.5 stage (I think the gov just gave up and tried to save face here in WA), I still have not bothered to go to stores I normally would like to pop into, like the book shop. The lockdowns seemed to have created new habits that pushed people towards the big box stores, and in the end, that may be the worst case scenario for small business.

  7. David says:

    I work for a casino that allowed smoking on the floor pre-C19. We are temporarily non-smoking and the floor smells so much better and is so much cleaner. I could deal with the cigarettes but the cigar smokers overwhelmed the ventilation system. Business is not suffering from making the floor non-smoking (we are back to 90-95% revenue on limited capacity). There are a small number of smokers who complain online or say they aren’t coming back until smoking is allowed. I tell all the players who say they like the floor non-smoking to fill out their comment cards.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Good point D,
      I have stayed in a couple of the very large casinos in LV the last 5 years or so because of their very fair room prices, but have not played any of the card games I have loved to play for years due to the smoke being too much for me at the area of the card tables. Least they could do is make some separation of AC systems to allow non smokers to play IMO.
      Never a high roller, but have always enjoyed the attempts to make a few bucks playing, in spite of them using six decks and all the other chicanery to stop people with good memories ‘counting cards.”
      As long as there is no device involved, I cannot understand why they don’t think that is fair, but I guess the ”my game, my rules” policy prevails, eh?
      And another anecdote: met a guy recently who had never smoked, but was bartender many years where it was allowed. He was terminal with COPD and emphysema in his late 50s… SO sad.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        Obviously the guy you met should get workers compensation payments for life, and disability too. Or, perhaps he could have made a better career choice. It was a free country once upon a time, until the country began rewarding stupidity.

  8. tom15 says:

    Here in flyover, seating is down due to state restrictions.
    No seating reduction in the bar section of the rest.
    So that is packed while we wait for a table. No looters or leftists
    screaming or looting. Just alot of new faces telling us how great it is to have escaped chicago, minnie, madison…etc…
    Somehow the wuhan has not wiped us out. Must be the alcohol kills it.

  9. David Hall says:

    Dominoes Pizza and the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through we’re getting some revenue. Unemployment benefits are below what high salaried workers are accustomed to. Not everyone is eating out, even if they have outdoor seating. Not everyone is making rent or mortgage payments either. The virus mortality rate has been reduced with more testing and better medical procedures.

    • Lee says:

      Domino’s PIZZA Enterprises Ltd (DMP) is up 97.9% over the year currently trading at A$87.58.

      Low was in March at $44.75 per share so the price has doubled since then.

      Haven’t had a pizza from that place in 22 years or so!!!!

      In fact, speaking of eating at a ‘dine in establishment’ I haven’t had a meal at one in over a year now. First reason was I got sick and then then the lockdown hit.

  10. Paulo says:

    The restaurants where it was all about their food seemed to survive around here. The ones where it was the ambience and experience didn’t, won’t, don’t. I know one fellow with a Chinese exclusive menu who did not even bother to open for dining in phase 3 (and our infection numbers one of the lowest in the World). All the tables empty but the wait staff run the front few tables for takeout. The tables are set up like a barrier. Lunch numbers down but holding its own, yet dinners have increased so much that it has made up for lunch decline and sales are normal, overall.

    Good news story for us in Canada. Vancouver Trump Tower Hotel shut down permanently this weekend. People stopped going about 3.5 years ago. Go figure. The condos (above) had also decreased in value yet are still occupied. I don’t imagine they could sell them until there is a new name on the front of the building. For some reason the owners paid to have the gold letters front and center. Weird. Anyway, sign pasted on the front of entrance specifically said closure NOT Covid related.

    • andy says:

      You mentioned before people look at you funny when you offer them un-cleaned fish and un-dug potatoes. Thanks for opining on people’s restaurant and culinary preferences.

  11. Winston says:

    “In many places, dining outside has been allowed for weeks or months. That’s a problem for restaurants that don’t have any space outside.”

    And even more of a problem for much of the US which experiences the weather of all four seasons. Just as the flu season will make getting BOTH COVID-19 AND the flu a really deadly combination, the effects of that on indoor dining will be combined with no more option for outdoor dining due to winter weather.

  12. tom15 says:

    Our speak easy is well stocked, not quite the expensive stuff that I’m sure Cuomo has in his.

  13. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    My son and I were talking about how Covid could end up a kind of millennial reset. The bars, restaurants etc mostly owned by older generations will go bust, and when the pandemic is over the millennials will roll in unscathed by corona and set up in turn-key establishments with bottom basement rent. President Gabbard and Fed Chair AOC will shower them with startup loans and they will be off to the races.

  14. Petunia says:

    Nothing shows me political incompetence more than the arbitrary shut down of the economic engine of America, small businesses. I’m not dining out again until this whole thing is over. It’s not because I’m afraid of c19, it’s the political manipulation I’m against.

    Although we have not dined out regularly over the last ten years, we did budget for birthdays and other special occasions. This year we could have gone out for those occasions, but we chose to stay home. Voted with our dollars.

    Just like all those neighborhoods looted lately, these businesses have been looted as well. I don’t think the majority will survive. Dead for a generation is what I think.

    • RightNYer says:

      I don’t quite follow your logic. How does declining to eat at a restaurant protesting the involuntary closure of that restaurant?

      • Petunia says:

        The local authorities can dictate how small businesses run, but I don’t have to support those bad decisions with my spending.

        The businesses are in the middle, being forced to provide inferior service, at detrimental costs to them. I don’t want to support inferior service as a public policy. Right now any small business that opens is on average prolonging their ultimate demise. If they were smarter, they would close until they can operate normally. Let the bad public policy be killed off by withholding taxes, employment, and rent. Instead of wasting their cash supporting bad policy, they should use it to boycott the bad policy.

        • El Katz says:

          You want to protest the local authority’s stupidity? Vote them out or recall them… Politics was never supposed to be a career anyway.

          Don’t punish the small business person for things they don’t control.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          There is a lot of money on the sidelines and a lot of stock market profits. Hopefully small business will restart OK. Many may have to take on partners. Buying a restaurant without needed experience usually results in failure.

      • MonkeyBusiness says:

        You are talking to a faux Republican. She criticizes the Dems while opening her arms wide for all sorts of bailouts. LOL.

        • sunny129 says:

          America has become a BAILOUT Nation under GOP conrolling Senate and the WH.

          THe Fed has already crossed and still crossing several RED lines + increasing wealth and income inequality, with no accountability or outrage in MSM.

          Fed is buying AAPL Corp Bonds whose value ( without 5 splits) is NOW $28000 from $ 22 ( post split just 10 CENTS!) since ’80.

          10Cents to $28000!

          The Mkt Cap of AAPL is now 98% of Russel 2000 as of Friday!

          Anything possible under BAILOUT Nation

        • Petunia says:

          I have never been on govt assistance my entire life, even when I was a democrat and even when I wasn’t and really needed it. All that bailout money came from working people like me. It is my taxes and home equity that went into bailing out the banks. It would have been better spent giving it to the people on the bottom of the economy. That’s not a liberal comment, they didn’t agree with the concept, it is based on observation and reason. It’s still my damn money they are spending.

        • kitten lopez says:

          El Katz, et al:

          i think it’s sweet that Petunia ever responds to smack any pipsqueak down, for Petunia is ahead of us all. She’s like Unamused but instead of smug and untouchable (which i also love), Petunia’s among The People. i don’t think she necessary wanted to be, as she made it to the Promised Land, worked in The Big House, AND unlike the others there who turn in their chutzpah to get along and play it their way, she still has the smarts instinct and animal sense of a girl who had to protect her hymen in the alleyway.

          to say she’s this or that is a waste of your time; she’s beyond your binary forced concepts, choices, thinking, and beyond false arguments.

          Petunia i read for secret hints of how to get out of This. how to truly …Rebel. without slipping into madness and disillusionment, as is befalling millions of americans now and in the near future.

          i’ve heard from Michael Africa Jr that the only way to truly rebel is Not Need the Stuff.

          but WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU’RE DOWN TO WHERE WE ARE NOW??? and the system is entirely locked down? (medicare taking your home so kids have no inheritance etc)

          Petunia sees/knows how bloodthirsty this can –and is gonna– get, so fighting with her is kinda pointless, like starting a fist fight with your local Cassandra while she’s warning you about the huuuuge financial and existential abyss you’re about to fall in as you rush at her.


        • Petunia says:


          Some of these guys crack me up, they are like drug addicts who think they are still in control. They think money isn’t political. They think badness will never touch them. It’s amusing at this point, in a FU way.

        • kitten lopez says:


          “drug addicts who think they are still in control.”

          niiiiiice. / so much drama in these comments section with story arcs denouments red herrings subplots … that is hella funnier and better metaphor than my tattered caterwaul and refrain that “we’re all nxxxxrs now.”

          gonna have to borrow that and give you credit because that’s hilarious in the most frightening way possible; because THAT is why i worry about what’s coming down: the state of the minds of the PEOPLE.

          later i’ll read this borne out in Wolf’s latest article on the next wave of oblivious white collar layoffs. / it’s the mental state of the drug addicts thinking they’re in charge when there will be millions of them and have been many already melting down… THAT is what terrifies me.

          we’re already seeing their fear of death playing out and ravaging things. can’t wait to see what’s next…

          oooh! James back (he just lost his job) and said the smoke has cleared enough for me to ride my bike to trader joe’s for my neighbor and us, without my lungs burning.

          acting like drug addicts still in charge… oh man that’s funny like burning lungs hella funny….



        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          @Petunia – unfortunately it’s not only your money, it’s our children and our grandchildren’s money.

    • A says:

      I’ve always been amused by how many people are unhappy living in their republican town in a republican state under a republican PTOUS and jump on the internet to blame “Nancy and Chuck” lol.

      • David G LA says:

        Like people that vote republican but are in favor of rent control and love their Medicare.

      • Petunia says:

        I am happy to be in a red state. I fled NY during the Dinkins catastrophe and don’t even want to visit.

      • Petunia says:


        I’m not old enough for medicare but do support universal coverage. I believe Nixon was the first president to propose it.

        Rent control is coming because the left wants to provide benefits to their base at the expense of the middle class. Notice how they never build affordable housing but are happy to let small landlords take the bulk of the burden.

      • El Katz says:


        I’ve always been amused at how many people are unhappy living in their liberal paradises and complain about excessive taxes and regulations and then move to another location with lower taxes and fewer regulations and then lobby and vote for the very things they fled.

    • Petunia says:

      If you had been watching NY and CA politics, it was clearly what they were pushing for, and they got it. They used the shutdown as a political weapon against the other side and deserve the credit for the results.

  15. james wordsworth says:

    The “K shaped” recovery continues.

    Those working at home (often owned, not rented) aren’t spending as much and are doing much better (boom in home renos – can’t find pressure treated lumber) financially in the pandemic as their income is stable and asset prices rise and living costs decrease. They win.

    Those in the service business (often renters) have far less income, fewer assets, and the same costs (much less to cut back on). Their jobs are service related so most negatively impacted … possibly for the long term. They lose.

    What is needed is a way to direct income to the losers and not to the winners (the precise opposite of what is happening now). Otherwise the social destruction will be mind boggling in terms of homelessness, substance abuse, suicide, and extreme poverty. Do this and money will flow to the rich fast enough, but at least the less fortunate will not revolt.

    • RightNYer says:

      Yeah, it does seem like Powell and Co. are looking to cause a civil war. Why? I don’t know.

      • Petunia says:

        Because they think they will win it without a scratch. I wouldn’t bet on it.

        • Mr Wake Up says:

          Growing up a 80’s baby during the Dinkins era and still here is extremely bizarre state of reality.

          I’m looking over my shoulder once again, approached by aggressive beggers too.

          I have been documenting the homeless, for rent signs, vacancies, empty streets, moving trucks, citi bike stations that use to have no availability are anywhere between 90-100% availability rate and oh boy the graffiti is totally out of control. It looks like a bunch of kids ran out coloring books. Sad reality is these are most likely the original graffiti artists from 80s early 90s living with their moms but I’ll leave it at that.

          As far as eating out goes. Inflation is reflected in the smaller portions along with higher prices. Many menus have been reduced and the real winners are the spots that have way more tables outside and full with wait times, then they ever had inside and crazy but sad are the locations that now have bus lanes impacting their inability to build an outdoor dining setting turning them into instant losers.

          Oh btw didn’t mention outdoor dining comes to end Oct 31?

          Then theirs the fact that I can walk over the queens county border where zero indoor dining is excepted and 50% is permitted when you cross over the Nassau county border which in an earlier WS media tycoon article factually documented that Nassau county is #1 county in the nation for subprime defaults along with its sister county Suffolk that has city folk fleeing but most dont understand these areas which have really lost suburban status in my opinion and have straight up turned into 6th and 7th boroughs of NYC.

          The take out spots (that have good food) are super busy with delivery and that’s a handful of spots I can speak for.

          I am one to travel throughout the boroughs and state so I’m seeing it all along with my good co dependent friend and negative influencer buddy called android which I personally think should make an ad against apple shot on a samsung note not and apple!

          But anyway when Nov arrives and not just due to the election (lol) but due to the end of outdoor dining it will park the updated version of this article to see where things stand or land….

          Because as a resident of the city that never sleeps it’s clearly still in hibernation, life support or maybe just in acoma… you choose.

        • Whatsthepoint says:

          A lot of people- including some here- are just one job loss, business failure, divorce, death, debilitating illness (or all five) away from slip sliding away never again to be seen on the upwardly mobile ladder. Deep down many intuitively know this and it scares them sh&£!€ss. Some have a head start and are actually better off…so don’t be too hard on them :)

  16. David G LA says:

    Coronavirus is transmitted mostly indoors, when in proximity to someone infected. Like when in a crowded bar. And people lose inhibitions after a drink or three.

    • Eric E OH says:

      There were some special restaurants and bars in Sturgis this year. 400K people, no masks, no distancing, no closing early and plenty of inhibition limiting alcohol. 3 weeks since the start of it, a grand total of 3 covid cases in the hospital. Just lucky I guess…………

  17. Breakfast outside in 90 degree heat, no thanks says:

    Phoenix set a record for the number of days above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
    That makes outside dining very unappealing and I suspect that is showing up in the data.

    • LouisDeLaSmart says:

      That should be seen in the data every year since Phoenix is +100F on regular basis in summer. What the data does not show is the average customer spending and number of restaurants closed. Hence while old habbits might be coming back, there might be a overall decrease of revenue and nuber of people that can afford them.

  18. Just Some Random Guy says:

    In my village every restaurant is packed as it always is during the summer. There are no restrictions. Eat inside, outside, curbside, whatever you want. Servers have to wear masks, customers don’t.

  19. Just Some Random Guy says:

    Not restaurant related, but give you a sense of the economy generally…

    I need a fence built as my existing fence has seen better day. I have two 100 lb dogs that love to jump and push on it. One of these days they will get their wish and the fence will fall down and they will have their freedom to chase the squirrels on the other side.

    So I got a coupe of quotes. I was floored when I saw the number. Both quotes were very similar, so it’s not like one place is just out there insane pricing. And if I want it installed, I can get on the list and they may be able to do it in November. Maybe. And that’s if there is wood available then. Which means it may have to be pushed to spring, since installing fences in winter (ground is frozen) doesn’t work so well.

    The house across the street from me is being renovated. Young faaily moved in, they’re doing a lot of it themselves, but I saw a construction van parked on the street for a few days as well. A house a block away from me was purchased recently and is being completely gutted. Not as a flip, I met the new owners. From California of course, lol.

    Anything construction wise be it a hadyman, plumber, electrician, fencing, masonry, painters…..booked weeks to months out.

    This is my every day economy. Which makes me very skeptical of the doom and gloom stuff I see in the MSM on a daily basis.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Anything to do with home improvement is hot. We saw and noted that in the retail report.

    • Seneca’s Cliff says:

      My personal theory is that all this home remodeling is based on people maxing out their credit cards before the banks figure out what their real employment prospects are. Most pronounced in red state villages where people don’t have enough foresight not to pack themselves cheek by jowl in to indoor dining venues

      • tom15 says:

        Heck that 85K truck I’m forced to have parked in front of my moby
        has me wiped out. Between the truck payment and the cost of ammo, no budget left for remodeling.

        • Just Some Random Guy says:

          I love the $85K truck myth everything throws around. A base Tundra is $35K. A base F150 is $29K. Some of you need to get out more.

        • Happy1 says:

          Base price yes, but with all the bells and whistles?

      • Tony22 says:

        You got it man. Have been preaching this to every economically troubled person that I meet. Artfully build up your credit, pay your bills, always leaving a small balance that you pay interest on, request new cards, then tell them you are remodeling and need a credit boost, to prepare for a surge in spending, then invest in real things like home improvements, long term food storage etc.

        Perhaps the fed will bail them out?

        There are no debtor’s prisons in this country as long as the cards are in your name. It’s a civil matter, after all your “business plan” was to make a movie, become a disruptive entrepreneur, revolutionize business, eliminate surplus labor, etc.”

        Morals do not apply to parasitical corporations that take, and in this case give, that can live forever and have no criminal corpus to be jailed.

  20. John says:

    San Diego has just begin allowing inside seating in restaurants again this week. Before it was takeout and outside dining only. Bars who dont serve food are still not allowed to have customers inside but many places are bringing in outside food vendors to get around this rule.
    Personally, I wont be changing my behavior which has been cooking at home with some takeout sprinkled in.

  21. Joe C says:

    Lovely. Wolf Street comment section is now starting to turn into a political board. Hope it doesn’t go that way with regularity, or I’ll move along.

    • Anthony A. says:

      It’s Sunday…..maybe he hasn’t had the time to weed out the political crap?

      • sierra7 says:

        Anthony A. (and others)
        Hate to break it to all but our lives are “political” whether we know, or want to be.
        Posters here are at least so far somewhat civil in political posts and responses.
        Good Heavens! You haven’t lived “political posters and responders” until you experience Zerohedge!!!!
        I go there every morning just to see what the ruckus is all about and maybe read a few posters but this site is like vanilla ice cream as compared to a cup of hydrochloride acid at ZH!

        As far as the plight of restaurants (and others) my heart goes out to all of them. It’s such a tough business anyway! Anybody have any stories on how the “mobile restaurant” businesses are doing?? The food trucks????
        Stay safe and healthy!

        • Jacqueline says:

          I’m a regular on there…They don’t call it Fight Club for nothing on Zerohedge!

      • Happy1 says:

        This doesn’t seem to be extra political. Thankfully.

    • curiouscat says:

      Move along to…. what? Zero Hedge?

      The inane nature of some comments does not detract from the value of what Wolf has to say, which is mostly enlightening and frequently not easily available elsewhere.

      Wolf and Mish are the only economic blogs I find worth reading, altho I read ZH for entertainment value now and then.

      There is value in seeing what your political opposition has to say. If you don’t read that, how are you going to know what to oppose except that “the other guy is wrong”? And who knows? Sometimes the other side might have a point.

      • HD says:

        You are so right. It’s good to be periodically reminded that the other side supports inducing lung cancer via secondhand smoke.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Yup, and the other side supports economic collapse by giving unlimited money and services to folks with unlimited demands.

    • sunny129 says:

      ‘starting to turn into a political board’

      Economics (finance, investment, Mkts,consumer prices++) always got triumphed over by POLITICS of the times! Hard to seperate one from the other! Add to that foreign policy and ongoing IDEOLOGY battles with BLIND FOLDS + Class wars!

      Read history!

    • fajensen says:

      Next you are going to demand a refund!

  22. Augusto says:

    I know a lot of people who will only go to a restaurant if there is a patio, no patio, and they aren’t going in. So what happens to the “V shaped recovery” as the weather turns colder this fall? Hey, how about the government providing Vaccine Credits or V-Credits. if you go to restaurants, and you earn V-Credits, which you can use for any drugs purchased or hospital costs due to contracting Covid-19. Better yet when a Vaccine comes along using your V-Credits you not only cover any costs of the Vaccine, but you can move up a couple of places in the line, nudging those storm trooper Boomers out of the way). Finally, like Victory Bonds, V-Credits can be fully refunded after the pandemic, driving economic and personal recovery (the great Trans-Recovery), the Super-Duper V. Think about it people, who needs MMT, when you can have V-Credits. S0, don’t join Antifa, comrades, fight the Fascist Pandemic with V-Credits….

    • Anthony A. says:

      This needs posters (the kind you hang on a wall). Kind of like the “Uncle Sam Needs You” posters during the war……

    • Lee says:

      And you can use V-Credits for any side effects of the vaccine and if needed funeral expences too…………………..

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      The Boomers will have a different line. They have money.

  23. You need to break this down, corporate to private business. In my city the private restaurants are closed, the franchise shops are open. My thesis is there will be a second wave of new franchises after the virus passes. Stock market may already be pricing this in. Do franchises handle state and local guidelines better than private? (They have lobbyists, right? Are lobbyists pushing the reopen button?) Corporates get the lions share of government aid as well. Private restaurants cannot ride out the losses as well. Besides busting up a tight labor market, this virus has been a blessing for Wall St.

    • lenert says:

      Decades of industry consolidation, deregulation, and de-unionizing accruing to the executive class, secular stagnation for everyone else.

  24. njbr says:

    Winter is coming.

    Just as cases spiked during the indoor season down south (AC !), they will spike in the north (heating!). No outdoor seating.

    Add to that the stumbling effects of re-opening schools, and this winter will be grim–especially for restaurants.

  25. Robert S Schelly says:

    San Francisco local here. Try a lunch in 53 degrees Fahrenheit with a cutting wind from every direction – that’s a typical July-August experience in the city, particularly the Financial District. Owners are setting up these forlorn windswept tables on the sidewalk. It’s impossible to enjoy a (($35)) lunch out there. Between loss of tourist traffic, cruise companies and conventions, S.F. is sucking wind. Wife and I are contemplating selling before the taxes start their inevitable rise.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, that’s a problem. Three layers plus a big jacket help. And now there’s the smoke.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        Gee Wolf, don’t they have a law against smoke in restaurants? Not entirely sarcastic. These political idiots believe that simply passing a law accomplishes something other than posturing. Then they insufficiently fund necessary enforcement.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” – Mark Twain.

      • High °F Decade High °C
        64.2 2010s 17.9
        64.1 2000s 17.8
        66.1 1990s 19.0
        65.1 1980s 18.4
        62.4 1970s 16.9
        62.2 1960s 16.8
        62.6 1950s 17.0
        62.5 1940s 16.9
        63.9 1930s 17.7
        63.7 1920s 17.6

        Granted if you moved to SF in the 90s you might think this is colder weather. Northern California weather has also moderated, and surrounding areas are now wildfire prone. People who fish in the EEL river tell me it is dangerously low.

  26. Bobber says:

    The big question is – when will people feel free to mingle without worries about catching COVID?

    It seems like they have the virus largely under control except in a few cities, but we may lose this control if people start crowding restaurants again.

    They say we may have a vaccine by November. That’s the optimistic scenario. I think adoption of the vaccine will be slow, as people will want to let others be the guinea pigs. For example, when that first vaccine comes out, I would prefer to keep social distancing and avoiding restaurants, as opposed to taking the vaccine. I imagine I am not alone in this thinking.

    This leads me to believe that this drop in restaurant business will be long-term in nature, maybe lasting two years or more. A lot of restaurants will go broke by then.

    I have been using all my restaurant gift cards as fast as I can. You don’t know if a restaurant will be around tomorrow.

    That’s restaurants. As for other retail, I’m more optimistic. Most other retail shops are larger buildings with high ceilings and lots of airflow. There just seems more spacing. Justified or not, I feel better going into a Kohls, Home Depot, Costco, etc., than I do going into a restaurant.

    • Lee says:


      I’ll take a vaccine for the CCP virus when:

      1. I see every politician and every member of their family , elected official, government worker, and law enforcement person in Australia take it and;

      2. Wait for a year after that to see if there are any noticeable side effects.

      Only then will I even think about doing it.

      • fajensen says:

        Well, ideally, there needs to be a un-vaccinated control group aand it would be unethical to do the normal double-blind test protocol … so, either way, you are helping THEM :)

        I’ll take the damn vaccine. I had corona in mid February and last week was the first week since then where I was not waking up every two hours because of pains from some lingering neural infection in my lower back. This crap is not “the flu”!

        • Lee says:

          Well I’m still getting over the bad case of pneumonia I picked up and all the other stuff along the way.

          I’ve never, ever been this sick for so long in my life.

          Now I just hope we don’t have a big bushfire season this summer with smoke which will again knock me and my lungs back on the floor.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Trouble with that protocol is that you will not be able to tell if the insane activities of the politicians are from the vaccine or just their regular idiocy, eh?
        Otherwise, I’m good with the concept!!

  27. lincoln says:

    U.S. restaurants are facing a very difficult situation when considering reopening restrictions, patrons who fear getting sick, and patrons who don’t want to make restaurant servers sick. Ryan Sutton, a food critic for Eater, summed up this last difficulty in the following way:

    “For a patron with a sudden craving, no plate of duck wings or fluke ceviche is worth getting catastrophically sick over, especially if one can order those dishes more safely via takeaway. For a staffer with little alternative but to work, no economic benefit outweighs the reality of getting infected with COVID-19, which can bring with it chronic health repercussions, devastating financial consequences, and death….I have no doubt that smart people have carried out rigorous cost-benefit studies about keeping businesses open, arguing that at some point the social ills of a stagnant economy will wreak more havoc than the virus. Thing is, my argument isn’t a macro one for policymakers — who should pay workers so they can stay at home — it’s a micro one for consumers. For me, the low risk of sending a single uninsured waiter to an ICU bed, someone who isn’t really there by choice, in exchange for the pitcher of frozen margaritas you happen to be craving in the late afternoon, is a morally indefensible transaction.”

    • andy says:

      I feel bad for the elitist NY food critic and the moral choices he has to make over a plate of duck wings. Wait.. duck wings?

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Yes, and how he’d prefer the uninsured waiter to be unemployed, rather than taking a risk that it’s the waiter’s choice to take.

        P.S. How does he know the waiter’s not insured by another family channel, or that the waiter isn’t a COVID-immune survivor with no worries?

        • MCH says:

          His position isn’t that he prefer the waiter to be unemployed. His position is that he expects the government to take care of the said waiter by paying his salary.

          Take that for what you will.

          That’s fine by me… I would also suggest sending said food critic to the unemployment lines without any government unemployment check, because let’s face it, in the reality he is proposing, he serves zero useful purpose. (I laugh here because it seems as if I’m implying a food critic with his opinion on what constitutes good vs bad food deserved to be employed in the current reality)

  28. Kasadour says:

    I think I need to review those comments rules.

  29. urblintz says:

    Not to diminish the importance of another great analysis by Wolf but… I am glad to never have been enthusiastic about eating in restaurants….

    It’s a bit of a cliche… I worked in too many of them and have seen things in the kitchen you really don’t want to know about.

    But again,this is another great essay from Wolf and I wish him only the best in persevering through the hard times SF is faced with. I’ve had good and bad times during many visits there (and lived on the upper west side of Manhattan for 30 years so I know good and bad times in a big city) but it would be tragic to see SF permanently diminished, imho.

  30. Robert says:

    I thought restaurants were low margin, always barely just making it kind of businesses. What percentage of them can take a 10% drop in business, much less 30-40%?
    Do they have the kind of leases that take a percentage of their revenue or are they obligated to pay a fixed costs?

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      It may depend on if the restaurant depends upon Millennials spending $35 for 350 calories artfully arranged with dribbles of sauce on a pristine square white plate.

  31. nick kelly says:

    Piece via ZH: Pinterest paying 90 million to get out of 400 mil lease commitment on new SF building.

Comments are closed.