Pueblo restaurant owners received just over $ 2.8 million in federal funding intended to keep their businesses afloat as the COVID-19 pandemic passed the one-year mark.
Congress created the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in March, a sum of $ 28.6 billion that restaurant owners can use for expenses such as payroll, rent, construction and maintenance. That’s more flexible than last year’s federal payment protection program loans, which were to be used primarily for salary expenses.
Grants that Pueblo restaurant owners received ranged from $ 3,165 for Smith Grubs, a food truck, to over half a million dollars for Toler Brothers, LLC, which is a major Colorado State concession caterer. Fair.
A total of 26 companies have received grants, which do not have to be repaid, according to data released by the US Small Business Administration under the Freedom of Information Act. Of these, 23 companies have also benefited from PPP loans.
âRestaurants are the heart of our communities and many in Colorado were in dire straits during the pandemic,â said Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., In a statement announcing the state’s recipients. “These grants will help keep many doors open and restaurant workers at work.”
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Across Colorado, 1,762 restaurants received nearly $ 480 million. Three Denver companies and one Westminster company were awarded the maximum of $ 10 million allowed per restaurant group.
More than 75% of Colorado’s grants have gone to restaurants owned by veterans, women or people of color, according to an analysis by Hickenlooper’s office.
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Funds as a âband aidâ in the event of an economic downturn
For Bill Toler, the $ 537,520 in grant was a âgodsendâ.
âThis pandemic has really hit people hard,â he said.
Toler Brothers, LLC employs 125 people and missed out on much of its income last year when confined to dealerships driving the state fair. The company is a contract concessionaire for the grandstand, event center and amphitheater at the exhibition grounds. He also holds liquor permits for these three locations.
âThe money is going to be used for salaries, food and beverage expenses, and business operating expenses,â Toler said.
Now, with funds from the RRF and an in-person state fair, Toler is hoping for a return to normal.
The owners of Shamrock Brewing used part of its $ 243,214 in grants to deal with building repairs they put on hold, taking advantage of the ban on eating inside to redo the restaurant’s wooden floors .
âWe are very grateful for the grant money,â said operating partner Gordon Cossar. Still, he said it was “more like a band-aid to the whole situation.”
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic became a health emergency at the worst possible time for an Irish pub: St. Patrick’s Day. One of the biggest days of the year for the restaurant has indeed been canceled.
“[The money] Helped us a lot because we lost quite a bit of stock that day because we were getting ready for St. Patty’s, âsaid Cossar. “I had quite a bit of food in the cooler which eventually deteriorated.”
He threw away the spare ingredients the restaurant expected to use for its celebration, like patties and vegetables that deteriorate in quality even when frozen, and used the grant money to restock a once the restaurant opened again.
It also allowed Cossar to offer each employee their job after the shutdown, although not everyone returned. Like many businesses across the country, Shamrock faces a staff shortage.
âOf course that money got me back because I’m going to have to spend this money on payroll and everything, so that helped take the pain away a bit,â he said.
Charles Sole, co-owner of Grind Haus CafÃ©, also faces serious hiring difficulties.
He and his fiancÃ© received money from the city, county, PPP and $ 64,395 in RRF funds, and said the money helped them get through a difficult 18 months.
Even with the money, he said it’s still a daily struggle to stay afloat.
âWe were using this money wisely, to grow our business as much as possible,â he said. âWe’re trying to get employees. But I think the biggest problem I think most small businesses have right now, including usâ¦ no one wants to work right now.
This includes the entrepreneurs for the cafÃ©’s event space, putting its expansion at a standstill.
âEven though we have this money and we have the potential to do a lot of things, there is no one who wants to work,â he said.
Restaurants that have received funds have until March 2023 to use the money for qualifying expenses.
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Chieftain reporter Sara Wilson can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @WilsonSaraJane.