Lawmakers and business leaders in Queens joined restaurateurs, and suppliers from throughout New York outside of Lake Pavilion Restaurant in Flushing to announce and celebrate the official opening of the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) on Friday, April 30.
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chambers of Commerce, expressed his gratitude to Queens Congress members Grace Meng and Gregory Meeks, and to the entire Queens delegation, for supporting the restaurant industry, which suffered significant financial losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today, we’re here to celebrate the official opening of the restaurant revitalization fund, the RRF, the $28.6 billion fund established by the newly enacted American rescue plan,” Grech said. “This is going to provide direct aid to the restaurant and hospitality business that have suffered great, great losses to our country and especially here in the epicenter of the epicenter in Queens County.”
Meng spearheaded the program, which secured $28.6 billion in funding that will provide direct aid to New York City’s restaurant industry, which was among the hardest hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Over the past year, restaurants and drinking establishments have been in distress. They’re hurting. They’ve fallen on hard times. Many continue to suffer severe economic losses due to the coronavirus, and they need help,” Meng said.
According to a report published by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in September 2020, employment in New York City’s restaurant industry fell to 91,000 in April of 2020 while sales fell by 71 percent from March through May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Meng encouraged all restaurants and drinking establishments that have experienced financial losses due to the pandemic to apply for the SBA RRF grants, which can be used to cover rent, payroll cost, mortgage and utility payments, food and beverage expenses, and construction of outdoor seating.
Funding is available to establishments that are not publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more locations. The maximum grant size is $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups.
New York restaurant owners and related food and beverage service businesses, as well as street food vendors, bakeries, wineries and caterers, can register through the SBA application portal, which opened on April 30, and start the application process as of noon on May 3.
A priority period of 21 days is given to women or veteran-owned businesses or those that are socially and economically disadvantaged.
“I urge you to apply for this funding. Please log on to the website. Multiple languages are available. I will continue to stand with you and work with you until we get the relief that we so desperately need here and deserve here in Queens,” Meng said.
The money granted to businesses through the program isn’t a loan, but a grant that doesn’t require repayment.
Assemblyman David Weprin pointed out that the diversity of restaurants is what makes New York City and Queens exceptional and thanked Congresswoman Meng for taking the lead in securing much-needed financial relief for the restaurant industry.
He also saw the silver lining.
“I think the worst is behind us. The vaccine is here. We are beginning to get out, and the best is yet ahead,” Weprin said.
Younghwan Kim, of the Murray Hill Merchants Association, thanked the elected leaders who helped businesses, especially minority-owned businesses, through the most challenging time.
“They give us the chance to make the American dream come true. Because we almost give up our business, my families, my family, my friends. All I can say is thank you to all the people who work for us,” Kim said.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospital Alliance, reminded everyone that the city’s restaurant industry was vital to the financial and social fabric of New York City. He indicated that because of the pandemic thousands of restaurants had to close their doors, and many are barely surviving.
Rigie also pressed restaurants to apply for the grant.
“Make sure that you get the money to pay your rent, your payroll, your vendors. Get the whole economic ecosystem moving again as we continue to reopen New York City and come back. Now let’s get cooking again,” Rigie said.
Jeffrey Garcia, chairman of the NYS Latino Restaurant, Bar & Lounge Association, said that the SBA RRF couldn’t have come at a better time because many businesses were at “the end of the rope.”
“We’re looking forward to getting back to cooking, getting back to partying and getting back to having fun and getting this city back together. It is really sad to go into these boroughs and Manhattan and see how desolate it is,” Garcia said.
Eligible businesses that have experienced pandemic-related revenue losses can apply through an SBA-recognized point of sale (POS) vendor or directly via SBA’s online application portal here.
Eligible entities include the following:
- Food stands, food trucks, food carts
- Bars, salons, lounges, taverns
- Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer, where the public may taste, sample or purchase products
- Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms*
- Breweries and/or microbreweries*
- Wineries and distilleries*
*On-site sales of food and beverages to the public comprise at least 33 percent of gross receipts.