Recently, when visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico I stopped for lunch in the Palacio Café, a small restaurant near the main plaza. I was on what my friends called my “green chile chicken enchilada journey”—having fallen in love with New Mexico green chile. As I travel, I always try to check in with small business owners to see how they’re doing, so I asked the café’s owner, Damian Munoz, how Covid had been for him. “Devastating,” was his answer.
“Did you get any financial help from the government?” I asked, hoping Munoz had at least received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgiveable loan. But like many small business owners, Munoz knows how to run his business but doesn’t know how to navigate government red tape. “No—I’m terrible at paperwork,” Munoz replied sadly.
Restaurants, bars, brewpubs, and the like were among the hardest hit companies in the pandemic, and these industries are dominated by small businesses that could least afford the hit. Munoz, for example, while fortunate to stay in business, lost more than 75% of his income while his rent and utilities and other expenses remained.
To try and save businesses like the one Munoz owns with his wife Maria—and where they both work 14 hour days, six days a week—President Joe Biden included the “Restaurant Revitalization Fund” as part of his “American Rescue Plan.” This includes $28.6 billion in GRANTS, not loans, for food and beverage serving businesses to help make up their losses in 2020. And there’s help from Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to help those like Munoz who have trouble applying for such help.
Unfortunately, while applications only opened up the beginning of May, those funds have now basically run out (there’s an exception for very small businesses—keep reading…). In fact, the Small Business Administration (SBA) received more than 266,000 applications totaling over $65 billion in funds. According to the SBA, about half of the applications came from veterans, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged business owners.
Can you still apply? Given the overwhelming response, the SBA is now limiting applications only to qualified small businesses with a total of $50,000 in gross receipts or less in 2019. However, there’s a move to replenish the fund to help additional restaurants, bar, and brewpub owners survive and revive.
IS THIS A LOAN?
No. Here’s the language from the SBA site: “Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.”
HOW MUCH CAN YOU GET?
2019 gross receipts (not profit) minus 2020 gross receipts minus PPP loan amounts. (If you started business in 2019 or 2020, there are other formulas.)
Companies that were serving food and/or beverage to the public, primarily onsite, including restaurants, food trucks and carts, bars, snack bars, microbreweries; and caterers, wineries, inns, and distilleries where onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts. You must NOT be permanently closed. You can have no more than 20 locations. Non-profits are NOT eligible.
WHAT CAN YOU USE THE MONEY FOR?
You can use the funds for just about any normal business expense: payroll, rent, utilities, food, supplies, loan payments, marketing, equipment, licenses, more. You can also use the money for construction of outside seating areas. And this covers expenses from Feb 15, 2020 to March 11, 2023!
HOW TO APPLY:
If you qualify – less than $50,000 in gross receipts in 2019, apply through any one of these:
- SBA: https://restaurants.sba.gov/requests/borrower/login/?next=/
- “POS”: Point-of-sale providers, including Square, Toast, Clover, Oracle, NCR (Aloha).
- TELEPHONE: (844) 279-8898
With the recent lifting of the mask mandate for vaccinated individuals, more Americans are starting to travel—like me. Hopefully, soon the Palacio Café will once again be filled with customers enjoying Munoz’s green chile chicken enchiladas or another meal in the charming, flower-filled courtyard.
But the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will help and deserves to be revitalized itself. If you own a restaurant, bar, food truck, brewpub or the like—or you care about someone who does—let your Congressperson and Senator know that you’d like the Restaurant Revitalization Fund expanded.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2021
This article originally ran in USA Today on May 20, 2021