New federal program could bring relief to Minnesota restaurants |

New federal program could bring relief to Minnesota restaurants

Callan Gray
Updated: April 30, 2021 11:26 PM
Created: April 30, 2021 11:08 PM

On Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Bap and Chicken is preparing to open its dining room to customers by mid-May. 

Restaurant owner John Gleason has adapted to several rounds of restrictions during the pandemic. He’s currently offering take-out and patio seating.

“With all of the pivoting and the great staff that we have, we were able to survive,” Gleason said. “Right now, I think a lot of restaurants are going above and beyond what's asked of us so we can be safe.”

He opened the restaurant about seven months before the pandemic started.

“We were really looking forward to a great 2020,” Gleason said. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've made a lot of personal and business sacrifices. It's nothing I’ve ever seen in 20-plus years in the industry.”

Early in the pandemic, Gleason was forced to lay off about half a dozen employees.

A new federal program could provide some relief. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was established under the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March. It provides $28.6 billion dollars for restaurants, food stands, and other food service business.

“I look at this fund as kind of a compensation and appreciate for that, as well as trying to save the industry,” Gleason said. “This fund will help us with rent and payroll, paying back some of the extra debt we did accrue. We'll see what happens.”

The program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business but no more than $5 million per physical location. 

“It definitely is going to help,” said Mike Mulrooney, who owns Pog Mahones Pub in Minneapolis and Blarney Pub and Grill in Dinkytown.

“We utilize September through May to get us through June, July and August when the students leave. We haven't had that this year, so we don’t have that cushion of help to get us through the summertime. That's where this program can be very beneficial to us.”

Businesses were able to start registering for the program on Friday, while applications open on Monday. According to the Small Business Association, it will prioritize businesses owned by women, veterans, and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged for the first 21 days. Applications will then be funded on a first-come, first-served basis, according to SBA. 

“I think they’re going to run out of funds, so I'm going to be right on the button at 11 o’clock on Monday morning,” Mulrooney said. “I'll have my application ready to go.”

Hospitality Minnesota CEO Liz Rammer told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they’ve been advocating for this relief since last March.

“These businesses are still very much in survival and revival mode and they need every sort of help they can get to start their recovery,” Rammer said.

She has concerns about the competitiveness of the process. Rammer told us they’ve urged Hospitality Minnesota members to apply as soon as possible.

“When you do the math and look at it across the states, that's not going to go very far,” she said. “It's really only going to replace about 10% of the lost sales over the last year, so it will go quickly.”

While the summer months will give the hospitality industry a boost, recovery is still years away. 

“We estimate we probably lost $11 billion in sales last year, that's just our state,” Rammer said. “We're still down 100,000 jobs in this industry and nationally it’s 1.8 million.”

For business owners like Gleason, safety will continue to be a top priority as they move towards recovery.

“It’s a community effort, if we're all in this together, we can continue to grow and survive,” said Gleason.

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