Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s culinary empire, which includes a catering company and dozens of restaurants, has experienced the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on a global scale. He has furloughed or paid his 5,000 employees worldwide through the Paycheck Protection Program, and hopes to reopen all his restaurants by the end of June.
The Austrian chef sits on Trump’s economic council with chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Shortly after the government-mandated shutdowns, he sat talked with the Los Angeles Times about how the crisis is affecting the restaurant industry.
When asked what was needed to help restaurants and other small- and mid-sized businesses across the country suffering economic damages due to shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19, he said insurance companies needed to step up and meet their obligation to cover business interruption claims.
Business interruption insurance is part of a business owner’s insurance policy that provides coverage for payroll and other operating expenses in the event a business has to temporarily close its doors due to a disaster. For example, if a fire breaks out in a restaurant and it has to close down for a period of time, the restaurant’s business interruption insurance will cover those expenses until the restaurant can reopen.
Businesses suffering from closures and restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic have filed business interruption claims with their insurers and been turned down. Insurers claim that virus outbreaks are not covered. Puck, like many businesses suffering from the closures, disagrees.
“I really believe that we need the help of our federal government. The first thing would have to be the insurance companies. I paid business interruption insurance for the last 38 years. They make an excuse and say the virus is not really included in your insurance,” he told the LA Times. “Well, the virus really didn’t shut us down. The government shut us down. They should pay up. And the government should bail out the insurance companies the same way they do with the airline industry. That way the money will go immediately to the people who need it, to smaller restaurants. They can go to their insurance guys and claim business interruption and lost money during this time.”
Many small business owners are fighting back and filing lawsuits against their insurance companies for denying coverage they believe they are entitled to. Beasley Allen is actively pursuing cases with clients whose insurance companies denied their business interruption claims. Dee Miles, Head of our Consumer Fraud Section, Rachel Boyd and Paul Evans are spearheading this litigation for our firm. They would like to talk to you about any potential claims.