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Home Food How Small Restaurants Leveraged Their Pain to Win Stimulus Money

How Small Restaurants Leveraged Their Pain to Win Stimulus Money

“We were a bunch of businesses that did the same thing, but we didn’t really find a unifying voice” before the pandemic, Ms. Cohen said. “The reality is that the way to make change is like this, through policy.”

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is meant to compensate restaurant and bar owners for revenue lost during shutdowns, and the money is reserved for businesses with 20 or fewer locations. Grants of up to $5 million for single restaurants, and up to $10 million for restaurant groups, will be made through the Small Business Administration.

Coalition members are quick to point out provisions intended to benefit marginalized communities. During the first 21 days grants are issued, the Small Business Administration will prioritize applications from businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans. Some $5 billion is set aside for businesses — including food trucks, food stalls and catering businesses — whose gross receipts in 2019 were less than $500,000.

John Schumacher is an owner of Harold’s Cabin, a neighborhood restaurant in Charleston, S.C., that has been closed since last spring. He said that from the beginning, the coalition set out to help restaurants that don’t have the resources of the group’s members.

“A lot of them don’t know what the I.R.C. is, or what this legislation is,” Mr. Schumacher said. “Those are the ones we’re fighting for the most.”

It was an uphill battle for most of the year. The coalition’s failure to get help for restaurants into the coronavirus relief package that President Donald Trump signed in December was particularly dispiriting. A popular video posted to social media that month, by a California restaurateur outraged over unequal enforcement of Covid restrictions in Los Angeles County, became emblematic of the frustration of coalition members.

“We definitely all had our anger moment,” Ms. Goin said.

Mr. Kass, the former presidential adviser, said coalition members restored morale by reminding one another of the delivery drivers, farmers and other food professionals who counted on them. “Washington does not like to give out industry-specific resources,” he said. “Everyone else gets really upset.”


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