With outdoor dining under fire in some cities, the National Restaurant Association warned the nation’s mayors Tuesday that thousands of restaurants will be forced to close if town halls drop the concessions that eased adoption of the service during the pandemic.

“We encourage local leaders to do everything in their power to assist restaurants in offering outdoor dining for as long as possible this winter,” Mike Whatley, the association’s VP of state affairs and grassroots advocacy, said in a letter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The communication notes that the industry’s recovery from the pandemic has been set back by the recent spike in coronavirus infections from the delta variant. Research shows that 78% of the nation’s eating establishments have seen sales slow because of the surge, Whatley pointed out.

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