WWBT: Richmond-area restaurants hope to cash in on Restaurant Revitalization Fund

WWBT, HENRY GRAFF

Richmond-area restaurants are hoping to cash in on The Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The billions in grants, which do not have to be paid back, are meant to help an industry ravaged by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Restaurant owners say they don’t expect to be back pre-COVID-19 operations for another six months to a year.

“It’s been a rough year,” said Terrance O’Neill, Owner of Penny Lane Pub.

With pandemic restrictions easing, business is picking back up at places like Penny Lane Pub in downtown Richmond, but it’s taking time. Waves of federal help keep the doors open at places like this and so many others across the region. In the meantime, O’Neill has his eyes on billions in federal aid.

“It’s tough. We do have a business. The restrictions make it impossible to turn a profit in over a year. So these funds are vital,” said O’Neill.

Starting Monday, restaurants, caterers and food truck operators can apply to the restaurant revitalization fund. Owners of inns, breweries, wineries and bakeries can also fill out an application online.

“It’s been devastating. It’s just been really rough on them and they’ve been struggling to get by, you know,” said Robert Melvin, Director of Government Affairs, Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association.

The $28.6 billion in federal aid will be prioritized for women, veteran and minority-owned businesses before opening up to others.

“It’s going to help but it’s there plenty of more to be done to help especially with this industry that has lost so much,” said Melvin.

Restaurant owners can put the money toward payroll, constructing outdoor seating, rent and supplies like cleaning products and other equipment.

“Our hope is that it will move very, very quickly because certainly, these funds have continued to be incredibly important for our small business owners in the restaurant industry,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, (D) 7th District.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association says of state restaurants surveyed, 81% say sales volume is lower than normal. And staffing remains a challenge, with 84% of restaurants at lower-than-normal staffing levels.

“There needs to be a helping hand to help everyone get through,” said O’Neill.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association says the $28.6 billion in aid can’t compare to the estimated $280 billion lost in the industry.

Businesses can apply, HERE.

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