Billions of dollars soon available to struggling restaurants

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MIDTOWN, Manhattan — Chairs and tables were empty at Crave Fishbar in Midtown East at lunchtime on Sunday; the New York City eatery is still only open for dinner.

“At our peak, between my three restaurants, I employed 150 full-time employees,” owner Brian Owens said.

Now, it’s only 40, but Owens is cautiously optimistic things will improve.

A $28 billion federal restaurant relief program, which is part of the American Rescue Plan, is expected launch in a few weeks.

“Then at least I have some help from the government keeping people employed and working towards getting back to better days,” he said.

The program will be run through the Small Business Administration. Senator Chuck Schumer urged business owners to apply Sunday. Money is dished out on a first come first serve basis.

“And hopefully this lifeline will keep our restaurants going till we finally beat COVID, and New York restaurants will be back bigger, better than ever before,” Schumer said.

New York City restaurants have struggled more than most. Limited occupancy requirements and a work force that remains mostly at home means fewer mouths for restaurants to feed.

According to Andrew Rigie of the New York Hospitality Alliance, “We’ve already lost thousands of restaurants and about 140,000 that worked in our city’s restaurant and bars are still out of work.”

Single restaurants will be eligible for $5 million and restaurant groups with 20 or fewer eateries would qualify for $10 million.

The money can go to a variety of expenses, including payroll, rent or mortgage, supplies, food and operational expenses.

Restaurants will need proof of 2020 and 2021 financial losses. To find out more, click here.

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