The feds offered $28.6 billion in grants to struggling restaurants this summer. Then they yanked the carpet out from restaurants that had already been awarded the money, and gave it to chains like Panera instead.
Today’s New York Times business section contains a profile and splashy photo of Fisherman’s Wharf bar Players Sports Grill and Arcade, which is normally a cause for a business to celebrate. But it is not a cause for this business to celebrate. The reason Players got a lengthy New York Times writeup is because they were one of the thousands of restaurants nationwide that were completely screwed by the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion Biden government grant fund that took grants away from people who had already been awarded money, and rewarded last-minute applicants and huge chains over independent operators who spent weeks getting their ducks in a row.
“Government assistance shouldn’t be a lottery,” Players owner James Hutton told the Times. The Times tells the tale of how Hutton’s restaurant submitted a meticulously prepared application literally the minute at which the grant portal opened, but he was denied. Meanwhile, some slacker who applied on the very last day got $1.8 million from the fund.
That’s not even the worst SF restaurant horror story with the fund. Some restaurant owners were notified that the government was awarding them a million dollars or more, only to get slapped in the face six weeks later with an email from the government’s Small Business Association (SBA) completely rescinding their promise.
SFist has obtained that rejection email from the SBA, seen above. “We regret to inform you that, due to recent court rulings, the SBA will not be able to disburse your Restaurant Revitalization Fund award,” the email says. “These lawsuits have led to three court rulings that preclude us from disbursing award funds to you.”
The phrase “These lawsuits” refers to legal motions from a consevative troll group co-founded by Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows (who’s in some trouble these days), which successfully reversed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund’s prioritization of women, POC, and veteran-owned restaurants.
Broke-Ass Stuart reported in June that Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack had their grant rescinded. Eater had the story of how veteran-owned Buena Vista Cafe was also jobbed out of a grant that was already awarded, while Eater SF reported that women-owned restaurant group behind Marlowe, Petit Marlowe, and Leo’s Oyster Bar was declined nearly $10 million that the SBA had already promised them.
And most infuriatingly, the Chronicle reported in July that cheesy chains Panera and Peet’s Coffee got $10 million each, which was not rescinded.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer swore that Congress would add more money to the program, but their summer break rolled around, and that never happened. Executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition told the Times, “Congress went home, and their neighborhood restaurants and bars are going out of business.”
And now, with another COVID surge looming, those restaurants are still on their own and hanging by a thread.
Image: William B. via Yelp