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Sen. Hickenlooper touts new restaurant relief program

Revitalization fund allows owners more flexibility with federal aid
Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., told a group of restaurant owners in Zoom meeting Friday that the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund, while not perfect, will provide flexible assistance to an industry hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper says a new federal grant program will provide hard-pressed restaurants hit by the COVID-19 pandemic some “serious momentum” as they recover.

Hickenlooper participated in a Zoom meeting Friday hosted by the Colorado Restaurant Association to discuss the new grant program tailored for businesses in the food and drink industry.

Restaurants, breweries, food trucks and other businesses that primarily serve food and drinks can apply for a grant from the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a new program under the Small Business Association. It was created by the American Rescue Act, President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill signed into law on March 11.

Friday’s meeting offered business owners an opportunity to learn more about the grant program. Hickenlooper was in attendance to hear people’s concerns and how the program might help their businesses recover.

“I know what it feels like and what you’re going through and what you’ve been going through,” Hickenlooper said. “While not perfect, I think that this Restaurant Revitalization Fund – these resources are going to do a better job at helping get restaurants back on their feet and at least get an opportunity to build their businesses back as we come out of this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dave Woodruff, general manager of El Moro Spirits and Tavern and Durango chapter president of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will offer more flexibility than the Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“The PPP money was great, but, just based upon how a restaurant operates, it was difficult to try to spend that money wisely,” Woodruff said.

Grants from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will be available to applicants with fewer than 20 restaurant locations. The grants can be used for business expenses, including payroll, mortgage, rent, supplies and construction costs.

“Being able to utilize this RRF money for some of those things like mortgage and rent, in addition to payroll and those sorts of things; it allows us a lot more flexibility and the ability to apply that money where we see it best fit,” Woodruff said.

The grant amounts businesses will receive from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will be based on the business’s total losses from 2019 to 2020. The amount a business receives in grant money will also be reduced by the amount of previously received in PPP loans.

Grants will be capped at $5 million per restaurant location or $10 million per restaurant group.

“$28.6 billion sounds like a lot, but if you have every restaurant that maxes out that $5 million – and obviously, not every restaurant will – but that’s only 5,700 restaurants that are going to be able to maximize that money,” Woodruff said. “If a restaurant is going to be able to utilize this, they need to get their application in early for sure.”

As of 2019, there were about 12,000 restaurants in Colorado alone, Woodruff said.

Hickenlooper said he hopes this program will give restaurant owners “some serious momentum coming out of the depths of this pandemic.”

“It helps that Sen. Hickenlooper (is) a former restaurant owner, so he understands the hardships that we endure even in normal times,” Woodruff said. “In a pandemic, it’s good to have somebody advocating on your behalf, that understands the nuances of operating a restaurant.”

Businesses can apply for grants from this fund and find out more about eligibility requirements on the Small Business Association’s website. The grant applications are not posted yet, but they will be available in the coming weeks, according to a news release from Hickenlooper’s office.

During the first 21 days of the application process, applications for grants from women-owned, veteran-owned and minority-owned businesses will be prioritized.

Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.

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