Relief Act Means ‘A Good Night’s Sleep’ For Food Industry, Says New York Restaurateur

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Restaurants have been particularly affected during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 110,000 closures since March.

The coronavirus relief package signed by President Biden on Thursday includes $ 28.6 billion for independent restaurants and small chains.

Previous relief bills included loans – through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – for businesses, they came with terms and conditions that many restaurants could not accept or navigate. The Coalition of Independent Restaurants, formed during the pandemic, called for more targeted and specific assistance.

Chef Amanda Cohen, owner of New York restaurant Dirt Candy and co-founder of the coalition, said restaurant professionals sighed with relief when the bill became law.

“I’m sure this is the first time many of us have had a good night’s sleep in a year,” she told NPR. All things Considered.

Dirt Candy, says Cohen, is considered a destination restaurant, which means the majority of its profits come from tourists. With tourism still lagging behind, Dirt Candy continues to suffer significant losses; the restaurant earned just $ 500 on Tuesday night – a far cry from its nighttime average of $ 12,000 before the pandemic, she said.

The $ 28.6 billion “is enough money to keep us going at least until the end of the year, if not longer,” Cohen said.

Here are some highlights of the interview:

Past relief measures included PPP loans. The new measure includes subsidies, which is different. Why was this important to you?

Well, restaurants can’t go into debt anymore at this point. P3 can turn into a grant for a lot of people, it also may not be. Forgiveness has really just started.

But this is based on the idea that it is a subsidy.

How do you understand when some of this help will reach you? I’m asking the question in part because there have been a lot of issues with the deployment of PPP loans when people needed them very quickly.

I think we’re probably looking at a few weeks, maybe a month, a little longer. It’s a new program.

It comes out through the Small Business Association, the SBA. And one of the good things is that some restaurateurs are still working on their second PPP loan. So we have a little time. But I guess by mid-April we should be up and running with the program.

Do you think he will ever come back as before?

I hope so, and I hope it comes back a little differently, actually. I think we’ve all had a year to think about how we want to run our businesses and how we can change them. And I don’t think so this year, but maybe by 2022 you will see an even better and stronger industry than before. But it will certainly take time.

Vincent Acovino and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited the audio story. Digital News intern Farah Eltohamy produced it for the web.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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