New Grants For Restaurants Will Reimburse Expenses

A masked worker at Hole in the Wall. Photo from @holeinthewall on Instagram.

Applications opened on Monday, January 11, for the Empire State Development (ESD) “Raising the NYS Bar Restaurant Recovery Fund,” a new reimbursement grant program. The fund, which has about $3 million total available, is offering grants to support full-service restaurants during the especially painful winter months without indoor dining.

Franchises, restaurants that opened after March 1st, 2019, and those who made more than $3 million in revenue in 2019 are not eligible for the funds, which will not exceed $5,000 per business.

Miro Gal, the owner of Bricolage in Park Slope, said via email that if they received it, the money would be a “huge help.”

“Anything helps during the winter, much more [so] now. Gloves, masks, food, repairs, outdoor structures, heaters… everything went up. [There’s] no mercy,” they said, speaking in regards to the pricing and adding that they wouldn’t pass on that cost to customers.

Barry Dry, the owner of Hole in the Wall, isn’t as optimistic.

“It’s a super dense application process asking for a lot of information that makes it quite hard to access. For anyone who is truly struggling during this period it might be too complex to compile all the documents,” Dry said in an email. “Furthermore, it’s a reimbursement of expenses you have already spent ruling out the restaurants that can’t afford to pay for outdoor structures. It also rules out any businesses that were started after March 2019.”

The money can be applied on a reimbursement basis to improvements or equipment allowing the spot to comply with social distancing, expanding take-out and delivery, accommodating outdoor dining, purchasing of PPE and sanitation supplies, and Winter improvements from September 1st, 2020 onward. The ESD specifies things like plexiglass barriers, heaters, heat lamps, insulated delivery bags, food heaters for to-go orders, filtration system upgrades, and social distancing signage as eligible items.

Bill Fletcher, of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue, says that while $5,000 isn’t necessarily a lot in the grand scheme of things, it would still be a great help. He has already started the application process.

“It definitely falls into the category of every little bit helps and I’m not going to turn any opportunity down,” Fletcher said. “We’re going for the maximum of $5,000, because we desperately need every penny that we can get,” he added. “Going through COVID, it’s hard to wrap your head around what you spent specifically for it. You’re just doing everything you possibly can to stay afloat, and you just usually do what you have to do. Part of my process today when it became open to apply was going through my ledgers to figure out what we spent on cleaning supplies and directional stuff, changing our website to be able to take ordering online, food photography, barriers,  PPE, all that stuff.”

Acting Commissioner Eric Gertler of the ESD said that “this fund is designed to help establishments adapt during this unprecedented time with assistance to sustain their businesses during the winter months to come,” in a release.

The ESD is presenting the program alongside leader Diageo North America, supporter Coastal Pacific Wine and Spirits, and implementer National Development Council.

If the maximum funds of $5,000 are provided to each restaurant, the program would be able to assist 600 businesses across the state.

Andrew Rigie, the director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance said in a statement that the program “will provide a degree of relief for business owners and employees deeply impacted by the pandemic.” This alone, will not be enough, however.

“Much more support is urgently needed to ensure the industry’s full recovery,” Rigie said.

“People should find ways to have more grants,” Fletcher said with a laugh.

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Ellie Plass

Ellie Plass

Ellie Plass is a food reporter for Bklyner. You can contact her, or send her tips at ellen@bklyner.com.

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