New York providing $5,000 grants to COVID-challenged restaurants. How to apply
- New York announced a new grant program for restaurants on Wednesday, offering $3 million to small businesses across the state.
- Restaurants can apply for up to $5,000 apiece starting Jan. 11.
- But the money won't go far for restaurants that missed out on revenue from the holiday season.
New York restaurants now can begin applying for $5,000 grants through a new state-run fund meant to funnel cash to those struggling through the winter months and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Raising the Bar Restaurant Recovery Fund will offer approximately $3 million total in reimbursement grants to eligible businesses. They application process opened up Monday.
The program comes during a roller coaster of a year for New York food establishments, in which they shut their doors to all but take-out orders last spring and then slowly reopened for indoor or outdoor dining in phases.
As of now, restaurants in state-designated orange zones are only able to provide takeout or delivery because of high rates of COVID-19 in the area.
Other programs offered to restaurants last year included the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided small business loans for establishments to keep their employees working, and several tax credit options.
Restaurants across the state have said these programs haven’t offset their costs enough to dissuade closure — some have already closed their doors — and others have pushed back on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s zone strategy, saying it is not effective for public health in certain areas and further hurts restaurants’ bottom lines.
“Our bills have not stopped — no matter what zone, what phase we’re in,” said Kelly Bush, who owns the Union Tavern in Irondequoit, near Rochester, and Marshall Street Bar and Grill in downtown Rochester.
While any grants will be helpful, it’s unclear whether they’ll be enough to cover the bills or taxes coming due this year, Bush said. "It’s a never ending limbo we’re living in,” she said.
To qualify for an up-to-$5,000 grant, a restaurant must:
- Be a full-service establishment, providing meals prepared on premises to customers who typically order, dine and drink in the restaurant. Restaurants providing takeout and grab-and-go services during COVID-19 are also eligible.
- Be located in New York state
- Have no more than $3 million in 2019 revenue
- Have been in operation on or before March 1, 2019
- Certify and demonstrate that they have experienced hardship during COVID-19
- Agree to comply with all applicable New York state and local reopening guidance and COVID-19 health and safety policies, including the restrictions in orange and red zones
- Chain restaurants are not eligible
The grants are expected to be used toward costs that can expand outdoor dining and takeout operations or help restaurants operate in the winter months in the COVID-19 era, such as improving filtration systems or purchasing PPE.
The fund is a partnership between the Empire State Development, the state's economic-development branch; UK-based beverage company Diageo Wine & Spirits; Texas-based distributor Southern Glazer Wines & Spirits and The National Development Council (NDC). Grant funding will be managed by The National Development Council, according to the state.
Government funding was vital in 2020, said Chuck Cerankosky, who owns and operates four restaurants and an annual, weeklong cocktail event in the Rochester area.
Without the first round of PPP funding, his businesses would be in an even worse financial position, he said. The program was restarted this year as part of the most recent federal COVID-19 relief package.
But the best thing the state government can do for restaurants, which are an integral piece of the state’s economic fabric, is come up with a sound, equitable plan to allow them to open for indoor dining, said Cerankosky.
“We’re not ungrateful for (the $5,000 grants) ... but it doesn’t go very far,” he said. As an example, $5,000 is enough to keep the lights on at Good Luck, one of his restaurants, for about a week and a half, even if the eatery is not operating, he said.
“While it’s appreciated, we can’t at all think this kind of action is enough to get us out of the hole we’re in,” he said.
He launched a petition, open to both patrons and restaurant owners, attesting to the opinion that the zone strategy is not workable, and that eateries in the area should have another plan to reopen indoor dining. More than 3,200 restaurant owners and patrons have signed it so far, he said.
“The virus is real, it’s dangerous, and we want to create a safe environment for our guests,” he said. “But if we don’t speak up for ourselves, you’re going to see this industry collapse. It’s not going to survive on takeout and igloos.”
For more information or to apply for a grant, visit https://esd.ny.gov/raising-bar-restaurant-recovery-fund.
Sarah Taddeo is the consumer watchdog reporter for USA Today Network's New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo.