Rally Kicks Off Week of Grassroots Action Organized By Independent Restaurant Coalition
Congress Allocated Just $28.6 Billion in Funds Despite Restaurants and Bars Seeking $72 Billion in Relief
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Restaurants Ask Biden Administration To Replenish The RRF
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, nearly a thousand people from the independent restaurant and bar community in 42 states registered for a national rally hosted by the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) to call on Congress and the Biden Administration to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). The event marks the beginning of a week of grassroots action organized by the IRC.
“It is clear to everyone that cares about this issue that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund needs to be replenished so that all 177,000 small businesses that applied for, and still desperately need, relief can get it,” said Andrew Zimmern, IRC Co-Founder, CEO and Founder of Passport Hospitality in Minneapolis, MN; host of MSNBC's James Beard Foundation Award-winning What’s Eating America. “We didn’t get to this point by hoping for a government intervention. We got here because so many of the 500,000 independent restaurants nationwide, our 11 million employees, our 5 million suppliers, and more made enough noise that our lawmakers realized how critical it was to take action and save our industry.”
The week of advocacy begins today, as motivated members of the independent restaurant and bar community will choose from a menu of activities to encourage Congress to save their beleaguered industry. It will continue on Wednesday as operators will light up Congressional phone lines by calling (202) 224-3121, urging their representatives to support the legislation. The week of action will conclude on Friday, as operators use the IRC’s take action tool to demand their members of Congress replenish the RRF.
The Last Mile Of The Marathon
“It’s going to take each and every one of you and all of your energy… we can do this,” said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. "We are at the last mile of the marathon, and I know that we can run this last mile together.”
"In cities and towns across the country, job numbers are improving and restaurants look busy, making it easy for lawmakers to stop paying attention to how bad things are for businesses with an historically low profit margin and an average of only 16 days worth of cash on hand,” said Gregory Gourdet, IRC Co-Founder and Chef of Kann in Portland, OR. “It’s now been 16 months that those businesses have had to figure out ways to keep on going."
“It is a tougher time than ever to figure out how to get this bucket refilled, but I know that we can do it together,” said Ashley Christensen, IRC co-founder, Chef-Proprietor of AC Restaurants in Raleigh, NC. “It is amazing that we have gotten this far — we deserve to have gotten this far, we have fought to get this far. We must keep fighting.”
“On a personal level, I am fighting because all three of my applications went un-awarded,” said Tyler Akin, IRC Co-Founder, Chef-Owner of Stock in Philadelphia, PA; Chef-Partner of Le Cavelier in Wilmington, DE. “I know that many among you are in the same boat.”
“Just a few months ago...I had no experience contacting Congressional leaders,” said Paul Reilly, Co-Owner/Executive Chef of Coperta in Denver, CO. “Now, here I am teaching you all how to do it…I felt so much that I needed to be a part of this and use my voice. You’ll be surprised by the outcomes you can achieve.”
“A voice of one is great, but a voice of many is even better,” said Nya Marshall, Owner of IVY Kitchen in Detroit, MI.
“You know your communities better than anyone else,” said Bessie King, General Manager of Villa Mexico Cafe in Boston, MA. “Even if we compete against each other, we are in the same trenches right now. Talk to your neighbors, educate your customers, talk to your elected officials — we must keep our elected leaders accountable.”
Losses Restaurants And Bars Had To Suffer Due To The Pandemic
The rally occurred in the wake of the Small Business Administration (SBA) closing the RRF application portal this past week, leaving 177,000 restaurants and bars that applied for relief out in the cold. Restaurants and bars lost over $280 billion during the pandemic yet only received $28.6 billion in targeted relief. These businesses continue to deal with pandemic-induced headwinds — over the past year, the price of beef and veal (up 41.4%), grains (up 93.8%), and shortening and cooking oil (up 34.8%) have surged. Over 1.2 million restaurant and bar workers remain jobless. This relief will give many of the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and bars the support they need to survive the pandemic as well as the 16 million people they support to survive the pandemic.
Recently, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act in both chambers of Congress, which provides $60 billion in additional funding for the RRF. This legislation is gaining rapid bipartisan support as 193 members of the House of Representatives have come out in support of the bill and 13 members of the Senate.
The RRF is a grant relief program modeled after the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act, which independent restaurant and bar operators from the IRC specifically designed alongside Senator Wicker and Congressman Blumenauer so their industry could access the relief they need. Thousands of IRC supporters first proposed in an April 2020 letter to Congress.
This first-of-its-kind grant program provides debt-free support in the amount of annual revenue lost from 2019 and 2020, with special provisions for businesses that opened in 2020 and 2019. They can only be used on eligible expenses (below) incurred starting on February 15, 2020 and ending on March 11, 2023. Unused funds – or funds not used for these purposes – will be returned to the government. These expenses include:
- Payroll (excluding employee compensation exceeding $100,000/year), employee benefits, and paid sick leave;
- Mortgage, rent, and utilities;
- Outdoor seating construction;
- Supplies, protective equipment, and cleaning materials;
- Food and beverage;
- Operational expenses;
- And principal business payments for business debt.
This program caters to the most vulnerable businesses: grants cannot exceed $10,000,000 per restaurant group (which cannot have more than 20 entities), and $5,000,000 per business. The landmark legislation prioritizes awarding grants to women or Veteran-owned businesses, and socially and economically disadvantaged groups, including Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. And for the first time, the SBA provided an application in Spanish.
About The IRC:
The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant and bar workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.