South Bend, St. Joseph County Offers Grants to Help Restaurants Stay Afloat During Pandemic | Local

Local grants to help restaurants

Identifying restaurants among the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, the administration of South Bend Mayor James Mueller is offering them grants to pay for investments and costs to stay alive.

The city planned to make so-called “innovation grants” of up to $ 2,000 available starting Friday, in reimbursement for money already spent or new expenses. The amount was obtained by dividing the $ 500,000 that the common council allocated in December to the initiative by the 250 restaurants authorized by the city.

The money is not coming directly from the federal CARES Act for Pandemic Stimulation and Relief, but the city has spent that amount of CARES Act money on the police and firefighters, freeing up money from the CARES Act. the city for restaurant aid that would otherwise have been spent on public safety costs, Mueller said.

Like all restaurants, the Ristorante Italiano de Parisi underwent a ‘seismic change’ when it was forced to completely shut down in-person dining at the start of the pandemic in early March, driving new costs to expedite transportation and delivery, as it was allowed to partially reopen restaurants. space over the months since then, said co-owner Derek Parisi.

Parisi likely spent as much as $ 10,000 on things that might be repayable under the grant program, five times the size of the grants, but Parisi said the business adjacent to the Notre Dame campus was grateful for the help.

“It’s very humiliating that the city is doing something for us… whatever the amount,” Parisi said. “There have been so many opportunities for small businesses that have been taken over, but we think the restaurant industry has been left out somewhat.”

Grants are only available to local business restaurants, franchised and headquartered in South Bend within city limits. But St. Joseph County officials tend to make them available in unincorporated areas of the county as well, perhaps on a trail that is a few weeks behind the city’s schedule, President Andy said. Kostielney, County Commissioners.

The South Bend Regional Chamber administers grants for the city, and Kostielney said he had asked its president and CEO, Jeff Rea, to compile a list of restaurants in unincorporated areas.

“Anything we can do to help keep our businesses open and keep them secure, we want to be as forward thinking as possible,” Kostielney said.

Like the city, Kostielney said he expects the county to also have about $ 500,000 that he was able to avoid spending last year thanks to CARES law funding. But Kostielney noted that the county is also looking to cap subsidies at $ 2,000 and has fewer restaurants, so it doesn’t expect to spend the full $ 500,000.

Rea said consumers tended to cut spending in January and February in general, not to mention a pandemic.

“It doesn’t guarantee they’re going to be successful, but I think it’s just a bit of a lifeline to help them get through,” Rea said. “No industry has been hit harder than the food and beverage industry and the leisure / hospitality industry, so I think there will be some excitement. In some of these little neighborhoods, $ 2,000 will cover some costs there. “

Rea said the town of Mishawaka is still considering joining the effort. He said restaurants would particularly welcome grants, as opposed to loans, as they don’t need to be repaid and they are nervous about taking on new debt at the moment.

But Parisi has received federal loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and expects them to be canceled, both in an upcoming first and second round, as they have met the requirement that about 60% of the loan proceeds are spent on payroll, Parisi said. . Money spent on other things, like igloos for outdoor dining, is not a forgivable debt, he said.

The criteria for the grant are open, as the app allows for a brief narrative where a restaurant can describe the investments or innovations made to increase the safety of customers and employees. Examples might include outdoor heaters, internal dividers between tables or counters, additional cleaning and sanitizing supplies, thermometers for customers or staff, contact tracing systems, and investments in software. and point-of-sale hardware to facilitate delivery or delivery, said Caleb Bauer, spokesperson for Mueller.

Parisi’s has invested in two heated plastic igloos that allow eating out, and they’ve been so well received, booked three weeks in advance, that the restaurant plans to make them a permanent fixture. One is themed around an Italian restaurant, while the other has a pavilion feel.

“We are wondering next year if we are going to do it more, even without COVID,” Parisi said. “It definitely gives the community something different.”

Le Lauber has also invested in an igloo and plans to use it year round even after the pandemic has ended, owner Frank Perri said.

“I went a bit off budget on this one and got one that’s really solid,” Perri said, adding that he spent around $ 4,500 on an igloo that took around 10 hours in two. men to assemble. “We’re going to keep it there all year round and make it sort of a terrarium and do some cool things with it in the spring, summer, and fall.”

Perri estimated that The Lauber spent around $ 15,000 on things that would be eligible for a grant, but he won’t apply for a grant because he said the restaurant has performed better than others.

Carol Meehan, who owns Fiddler’s Hearth with her husband, Terry, said $ 2,000 would be a “drop in the bucket” in what they spent to stay open, but they will apply.

They spent $ 3,200 on igloos which were popular in the fall but were less popular as the temperature dropped because the fire department does not allow open flame propane or extension cords.

The Irish pub also bought outdoor heaters, ultraviolet lights which it says kill germs in the air when the restaurant is closed, as well as dividers between tables and additional costs for sanitizer and protective gear. individual.

Meehan said revenue was down about 40%.

“It wasn’t a year to spend all that extra money,” she said. “Fortunately, the carryover is still very good. But it’s $ 2,000. If we are eligible, we will take advantage of it. “

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