The heavy blow to restaurants nationwide demonstrates the pandemic’s continued blow to the industry, despite national efforts to avoid the economic pitfalls of closings this winter. Sales fell at 98% of restaurants across the country in December, according to a survey of 1,169 restaurants by the Independent Restaurant Coalition. Sales fell by at least half for 58% of respondents, while 80% of restaurant owners said omicron had an impact on their opening hours.
The fund has provided up to $5 million per location to restaurant owners — or up to $10 million per business — who could demonstrate that their business has experienced significant financial hardship during the pandemic.
The impact is especially difficult for businesses that failed to secure funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion federal effort to rescue struggling businesses that was part of the American Rescue Fund. Four in five businesses that did not receive subsidies said they were at risk of closing permanently in 2022.
Restaurateur Dwayne Allen, owner of The Breadfuit in Phoenix, said the pandemic forced him to close restaurants in March 2020. Over the past two years, he has worked to keep the business afloat by introducing catering , takeout, pop-ups and community partnerships. He applied for an RRF grant, but did not receive one. Now, Allen said efforts to keep the restaurant afloat had left him tens of thousands of dollars in debt and he was losing hope of ever reopening the restaurant without outside financial support.
In addition to a drop in sales, restaurants have also faced staff shortages and increased costs due to rising wages. Nearly half of restaurants that did not receive pandemic relief said they were forced to lay off staff due to rising cases, compared with a third of those that received funding.
Nearly half of restaurants also said the cost and availability of COVID testing impacted their ability to do business.
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