Some restaurateurs, those who are surviving the severe economic downturn, because as we've noted, restaurants are getting fried during lockdowns, have said they will reopen dining halls when a proven vaccine is mass-produced for the general population. Now the issue, there is no clear timetable on when a treatment or vaccine will be ready -- an uncertainty that could prove disastrous industrywide.
Danny Meyer, a restaurateur in New York City with 19 eateries, said his dining halls would remain closed until a COVID-19 vaccine is seen.
Of the 19 restaurants, he owns Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café, two pricey restaurants in Manhattan. He told Bloomberg that all of his eateries were shuttered in early March due to the public health crisis.
"We won't be welcoming guests into our full-service restaurants for a very long time—probably not until there's a vaccine," Meyer said. "There is no interest or excitement on my part to having a half-full dining room while everyone is getting their temperature taken and wearing masks, for not much money."
"It's very frustrating, but it's the only safe way to go," he adds. This gloomy outlook is also shared by fellow restaurateur Daniel Humm, who may permanently close Eleven Madison Park.
With the restaurant industry on life-support, hopes for a vaccine were dashed on Wednesday when Dr. Anthony Fauci noted several caveats, one being that Gilead's remdesivir has proven to be a "modest success" by the results so far - it's not the 'game-changer' as Wall Street likes to believe. He said some of the vaccine trials could cause harm to test subjects while listing at least eight vaccines (including Moderna's) in some stage of development.
Dr. Fauci said more details about the trails would be known by late fall or early winter.
As for President Trump, he's on Twitter Thursday morning trying to pump the stock market with tweets about "VERY promising" vaccines "before the end of the year."
A proven vaccine by the fourth quarter is possibly the best and most optimistic scenario, though JPMorgan's core assumption is that one "could take 12-16 months" -- which would mean a vaccine could be seen in the back half of 2021.
Rick Bright, the top federal vaccine official who claims he was ousted for criticizing President Trump's response to the virus pandemic, told a House hearing on Thursday that "2020 will be (the) darkest winter in modern history."
What's worse, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently warned treatment or vaccine might be more than a year away - and in fact, may never arrive.
"A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine," said Johnson. "So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome."
WHO's Dr. Mike Ryan warned this week that the virus is bouncing around the population like HIV or a supercharged version of the common cold until a vaccine can be mass-produced.
Restaurants are making a good call to exclude the opening of dining halls, and many have opted to rework their business models to include carryout.
For restaurants waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine to reopen, we note that seventeen years after the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak and seven years since the first Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) case, there is still none.
What's becoming clear is that a mass-produced vaccine is not a 2020 story. Bright told a House hearing on Thursday that a 12-18 month vaccine timeline is still very "aggressive." Restaurants are doomed, and judging by the shockingly easy spread of viruses as we detailed earlier, it will be a long time before anything like 'normal' is back.