Local restaurants hope for a new infusion of federal funds

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Clayre Cardi was stunned when she received an email warning her that she would not receive the federal grant money she had been promised to help keep her business afloat.

Cardi, owner of Vue on 50, an event space in Center City, had started rehiring her small staff and was preparing to reopen. She depended on federal dollars from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund

“I found myself worse now than if I had never been approved for this grant, she said. “Because I did things. I made decisions based on the fact that I was receiving this money, that I was approved for this money.

The US Small Business Administration quashed Vue on 50’s grant in June after a court ruled that the federal government acted unconstitutionally and discriminatory by creating a priority window for establishments owned by women, minorities and women. Veterans.

Now, industry organizations across the country are urging Congress to replenish the RRF to provide financial assistance to business owners like Cardi whose grants have been withdrawn as well as those whose applications are pending.

Closures at the start of the coronavirus pandemic have devastated the hospitality industry, and concerns about the rise of the Delta variant threaten to erase recent progress, according to those in the restaurant industry.

In a recent survey, the National Restaurant Association found that six in 10 Americans changed their restaurant behavior as a result of the variant. Almost 20% said they stopped going to restaurants and 9% said they canceled reservations or plans, according to the organization.

“It’s still a very difficult time for restaurants,” said John Longstreet, director of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. “People are more and more careful. “

PRLA was one of 50 state groups, along with the National Restaurant Association, that signed a letter sent to congressional leaders late last month to advocate for a revival of the fund.

The RRF, which was created as part of the US bailout, was inundated with requests earlier this year and its allocation of $ 28.6 billion quickly ran out.

According to the National Restaurant Association, only one in three restaurants that applied received grants, leaving 177,000 business owners with pending applications. PRLA said more than 6,400 companies in Pennsylvania seeking $ 1.5 billion were unfunded.

According to the New York Times, nearly 3,000 applicants nationwide have had their grants canceled due to the lawsuit.

Longstreet said the PRLA was pushing for legislation that would allocate an additional $ 60 billion to the RRF – which he added would allow all restaurant owners in the state who initially applied for funding to obtain. grants.

About $ 268 million was distributed to 727 restaurant establishments in Philadelphia through the fund, with an average grant of about $ 166,000, according to the Economy League of Philadelphia.

Just under 20% of all restaurants in the city have received financial assistance through the program, the organization reported.

Cardi remained frustrated after her experience with the RRF; however, she hopes Congress will replenish the fund and reissue grant offers that were canceled.

Although Vue sur 50 hosts weddings, 80% of its revenue comes from corporate meetings, and in the past two weeks, business customers have canceled all bookings through December. Cardi doesn’t expect corporate events to return until spring.

“So we’re not back to zero, but we’re not even close to being completely back to where we were before,” she added.

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