D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development have launched the application period for D.C.’s $35 million Restaurant Bridge Fund.
The fund will distribute at least 700 competitive grants, of varying sizes ranging up to $50,000, to eligible restaurants and food service establishments that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Examples of businesses that are eligible include full-service restaurants, limited-service restaurants, fast food restaurants, bars and taverns with a tavern license, delis, bakeries, cafes, coffee shops, food trucks, and cafeterias.
The District will also set aside $5.25 million of the funds from the Restaurant Bridge Fund for Resident-Owned Businesses, Small Business Enterprises, and businesses that are at least 51% owned by economically-disadvantaged individuals, or 51% owned by a woman or majority of women.
That money will be used to help recipients pay operational expenses such as rent, mortgage, payroll, insurance, fuel for mobile vendors, or utilities, and expenses incurred related to winterization or COVID-19 preparation.
“Our restaurants and other food establishments are essential to small business community, employing our residents and driving our local economy,” Bowser said in a press release. “We know times are particularly tough as our restaurants continue to make sacrifices and implement creative service adjustments. Through the Restaurant Bridge Fund, we can help more of these businesses and their employees make it to the other side of the pandemic.”
The fund is part of a much-larger initiative, announced in November, known as the The Bridge Fund, which will provide $100 million in financial relief to businesses in the hotel, restaurant, retail, and entertainment sectors. The overall initiative is funded by money appropriated by the D.C. Council after receiving money from the federal government as part of the CARES Act.
According to the District’s Chief Financial Officer, the District had 34,300 food service jobs in September 2020, down from 56,833 the previous year, representing a nearly 39% drop in business — most of it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the midst of a global pandemic and a local hospitality recession, our employers need a bridge of financial support to keep employees working,” Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio said in a statement. “The Restaurant Bridge Fund is our latest investment in the businesses and people that make our city vibrant. Our goal is to preserve jobs that our residents rely on and ensure businesses can thrive beyond this pandemic.”
Falcicchio’s office will host three information sessions on the Restaurant Bridge Fund for businesses. Prospective applicants are encouraged to attend. The application deadline is Monday, Dec. 28.
The city previously began accepting applications for the $30 million Hotel Bridge Fund last month. It plans to launch its Retail Bridge fund and Entertainment Bridge Fund in the coming weeks.
Rob Heim, the general manager of Shaw’s Tavern, told Metro Weekly in an interview that his establishment had applied for previous grants and would be applying for the Restaurant Bridge Fund as well.
“We’re applying for the Bridge grants, and we’re hoping there’s going to be another round of [Paycheck Protection Program money] coming out very soon, because that would allow us to get through,” Heim said. “I think there’s going to be light on the other side of this pandemic. It’s just going to be a rough three or four months.”
Justin Parker, the co-owner of The Dirty Goose, said he is happy that the city is taking action to help businesses in the service industry, and supports the idea of the Restaurant Bridge Fund, even though his bar will not be able to apply for that money.
“If you were more bar-heavy and didn’t serve 25% sales and food last year, you have to wait and file under the Entertainment Bridge Grant,” noted Parker. “So we’re going to have to wait for that.”
For more information on The Bridge Fund, or to register for one of the information sessions, visit coronavirus.dc.gov/bridgefund or email RestaurantBridgeFund@dc.gov.
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