The closure of bars and social clubs, and new limits on restaurants, will affect about 12,000 Vermonters who work in the dining industry, according to the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Phil Scott on Friday issued new guidance closing bars and social clubs, among other measures, as the Covid-19 case count increases in Vermont. His guidance, in the amendment to an earlier executive order, also included a ban on inter-household gatherings.

Seventy-two cases were reported on Wednesday, 109 on Thursday and 84 on Friday. Twenty-one people have been hospitalized with the virus, and three are in the ICU.

Vermont’s restaurant and bar industry employed 20,000 people before restaurants and bars were initially ordered to close March 17 to slow the spread of the virus, said the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Restaurant and bar employment hit a low of 5,700 in April, the group said, before the state slowly started to ease restrictions. Restaurants recovered enough for employment in the sector to rise to 12,000, the Chamber said.

But “we are anticipating a dramatic swing in employment numbers with the most recent operation restrictions that were announced,” the group said. Like other business groups this week, the Chamber pressed the Joint Finance Committee, which is meeting Saturday, to approve the Scott administration’s bid to allocate $75 million to Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s grant program for businesses.

“It has become increasingly clear that Vermont’s restaurant sector will continue to realize steeply depressed business levels,” the Chamber said. “The allocation of another $75 million in business relief grants will be imperative to the survival of the industry.”

Last year, prior to the pandemic, Chris Karr had 150 people on the payroll at his four dining and drinking establishments in Killington. The restaurants now employ 55.

“Should we be forced to close we would pare back to essential employees,” said Karr. “Probably under 10, with no revenue to our operations.”

–Anne Wallace-Allen