Pandemic help designed specifically for restaurants: Billions available in new grant program

Posted at 6:19 AM, Apr 08, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — New federal grants could offer the lifeline local restaurants have been looking for throughout the pandemic. Last year, small businesses in need of help were able to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans that were designed to keep them afloat by paying employees - but many restaurants said those loans didn't work for the way their business runs. They're hoping the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grant program will give them the help they need.

The RRF will offer $28.6 billion in grants to restaurants and bars in need. The grants are given out through the Small Business Administration, and can be used to pay for things like rent, payroll, utilities and supplies. The hope is that this program, which is more expansive than the PPP, will help restaurants as they work to recover.

James Maloney is a local attorney who spent the past year helping businesses apply for PPP loans. He says for many restaurants the parameters of those loans just didn't work - especially ones that were just starting out.

"PPP looked at you being fully in business in 2019. Well a lot of restaurants, a lot of businesses owners invested their life savings to start a business – at the worst time," he explained.

Hofbrauhaus Buffalo is one restaurant that wasn't able to benefit much from the PPP loans. The restaurant was still under construction in 2019, and didn't open its doors until September of 2020 - in the middle of the pandemic.

"We were so limited. Because were only outside, had a few tables, and that's it," explained Dr. Edward Arnold, from Hofbrauhaus Buffalo. "It’s terrible. Because you know the potential this place can do. When this place is fully-open, no COVID, we can have 1500 people here. And you’re never at full potential during this pandemic."

Maloney says Hofbrauhaus Buffalo is a perfect example of a restaurant that will be able to benefit from the RRF grants. Unlike PPP, the grant program allows restaurants to consider construction costs when applying for the grant. For the Hofbrauhaus, that's a significant amount of money.

"We’ve invested millions in this place.This seems to be something finally built to include restaurants like ours," said Arnold.

"They shouldn’t be penalized simply because they invested at the wrong time," echoed Maloney.

Restaurants that were fully-operational in 2019 will be able to apply as well. The grant program allows them to take their 2019 gross revenue, subtract their 2020 gross revenue, and apply for a grant for the difference. Any PPP loans a restaurant got will need to be subtracted from that total as well.

"It’s a little more generous for the restaurants," said Maloney. "What it’s specifically designed to do is compensate for lost income for the difference between 2019 when the world was normal, and 2020."

Arnold says Hofbrauhaus Buffalo is ready for things to get back to normal. "Everybody is really looking forward to the future. I think this really helps. That grant will make a big difference," he said. "I also think the vaccine and COVID hopefully easing will lead to a really nice spring and summer."