Napa's Thomas Keller joins top chefs in asking Trump for insurance coverage for coronavirus losses

Napa's Thomas Keller joins top chefs in asking Trump for insurance coverage for coronavirus losses

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series
Trial to open against Thomas Keller and his 3-star eateries (copy)

Chef Thomas Keller

A cluster of famous chefs, including Yountville’s Thomas Keller, have spoken with President Trump about the need to have insurance companies cover business losses in the restaurant industry due to public health mandates to fight the coronavirus.

Keller, who owns the French Laundry and a string of celebrated restaurants both in Yountville and across the U.S., was joined by Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dominique Crenn.

The chefs claim that insurance companies are wrongfully denying business interruption coverage for the entire restaurant industry, a major employer in the U.S.

Keller had previously announced that he would be suing his insurance carrier for losses stemming from local and state orders that prohibit dining in restaurants, although take-out orders are permitted.

Restaurant policies commonly exclude business interruption coverage due to viruses.

The chefs introduced Trump to Business Interruption Group, BIG, a newly formed national legal, political, and communications campaign launched in partnership with veteran insurance attorney John W. Houghtaling II.

The chefs asked the President for support and guidance for a solution to save restaurants. “Our new BIG platform is a way we can speak as one voice in the industry. Together we have the strength of millions of people,” said Vongerichten.

Keller said, “The restaurant industry is the largest private sector employer in America — it’s a chosen profession employing more than 15.6 million Americans and contributes $1 trillion to the economy. This entire sector is crippled by a nationwide public health shutdown impacting countless livelihoods. We need insurance companies to do the right thing and save millions of jobs.”

About the call, Puck said, “We were encouraged by our conversation with the President about the urgent need to help the restaurant industry. All of us paid business interruption insurance for years to protect the livelihood of our employees. If the restaurant industry collapses, it has a massive effect on the entire economy. Many restaurants have different policies, but we need to find a solution for restaurateurs big and small.”

Boulud added, “The President took time to listen to us and was very supportive. We provided him why we believed the insurance companies were wrong. He understands insurance and asked to see our policies to read them for himself. We cannot be more grateful for his support. The President recognized that some of us have exclusions and some do not, and the insurance companies are denying us all.”

BIG stated it has the support of the Culinary Institute of America as well as the James Beard Foundation.

Editor’s Note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/.

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