ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Lawmakers are proposing an extension to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, part of the American Rescue Plan, for restaurants still recovering from the pandemic. The original grant money of $28.6 billion prioritized minority owned businesses, like women, veterans and people of color. But, under one-third of 362,000 qualifying applicants actually got help.
“The $28.6 billion originally allocated in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was a huge step in addressing the ongoing and unique economic crisis that our nation’s restaurants weathered this past year. The demand for the fund simply outpaced the supply, and we need to ensure these businesses get the resources they desperately need,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “Independent restaurants are critical to our economy and this additional $60 billion funding boost will provide direct aid to the restaurant owners Congress initially intended to assist and help these vital businesses keep their doors open.”
Part of those left out includes Bubby’s BBQ in Rochester. Co-owner Demetrius Washington Ellison started the restaurant back in December, in the thick of the pandemic. It was not an easy task. “Just kind of been this scrappy company trying to get up and running,” he said.
It was tough, but Ellison had hopes the pandemic would die down and service would boom eventually. Ellison applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Grant for aid he was prioritized for as a Black business owner. He became eligible for $42,000. But he didn’t get any money—instead he and his business partner had to find other ways to be resourceful and make ends meet.
“Honestly it was very disappointing,” said Ellison. “I lost a lot of sleep to be honest, in my mindset we weren’t going to be able to reopen without it,” he said. But they have been able to survive, after being resourceful. For example, they only ran operation for two days a week before moving up to three.
Gillibrand is proposing an extension to the Restaurant Revitalization Grant saying the demand far outweighed the supply. She and other lawmakers are calling for $60 billion more in aid, a number they say will cover all the minority applicants like Ellison who were left out the first time around.
“They’re first in line. They’re already approved,” she said. Gillibrand says the bill has bipartisan and bicameral support. She is confident it would pass, if it makes it to the Senate.
Celebrity restaurant owner Tom Colicchio echoes Gillibrand’s statments. He says many are under the impression that restaurants are back and better than ever, but that’s not true for everyone. “We’ve been a little busier the last few months, but two months of revenue is not going to make up for zero months of revenue or very little revenue,” he said.
Ellison says he’d be ecstatic to get the money he originally qualified for. But for now, he can only be as optimistic as possible for the months to come.