Dozens of central Pennsylvania food and beverage businesses have received grants through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
On July 9, the U.S. Small Business Administration published a database of more than 100,000 businesses nationwide approved to receive the grants through the food industry stimulus program.
Several types of food businesses including caterers, bars, wineries and bakeries were eligible to apply. Millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief was distributed.
In central Pennsylvania, recipients run the gamut from Raising the Bar, a vendor at Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, receiving $14,000 to Seven Hills, Inc. in Mechanicsburg, operating as Sbarro, receiving $8.9 million. Keystone Apple Inc, operator of local Applebee’s restaurants, was given $4.5 million.
A total of 9,944 restaurants in Pennsylvania applied with only 3,530 – or about 35% – receiving the grants for a total of $949,357,480. The average grant size was $95,470.
Two Pennsylvania restaurants received the highest eligible amount, which was $10 million: Cuba Libre, a Philadelphia-based Cuban restaurant with four other outposts operating around the country, and Big Burrito Group, a Pittsburgh-area restaurant with seven locations.
“I’ve been speaking to people who are in tears knowing they are going to financially survive in the future, whereas last year it was so uncertain,” said Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy for the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.
While the restaurant industry is rebounding, Fileccia said many establishments went 15 months with unlimited revenue and will be digging out of a financial hole for years.
“It gives them an opportunity to launch now in the same foothold as if the pandemic didn’t happen,” he said.
On the flip side, a large chunk of restaurants were shut out of funding. The $28.6 billion relief fund opened applications in early May but closed after running out of money. About one third of the 370,000 applications nationwide were approved for funding.
Fileccia said the industry is pushing Congress to replenish those funds with targeted relief for the hospitality industry.
“We knew from the get-go that wasn’t enough money. There was going to be winners and losers. It’s just so unfortunate for the folks that didn’t receive funding by the time the funds ran out,” he said.
In addition, the SBA encountered another stumbling block.
Originally the SBA opened the first 21 days of the application process to groups it said are historically underserved, including women, veteran and minority-owned businesses. However, three white restaurant owners, including Eric Nyman, owner of Penn Hotel Sports Bar & Raw Bar in Hershey, filed federal lawsuits against the SBA on grounds of discrimination.
Judges ruled in favor of those restaurant owners, prompting the SBA to backpedal on payments for about 3,000 restaurants already approved for the funding.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News, about 34% of the grants were distributed to businesses owned by socioeconomically disadvantaged persons, almost 44% to women-owned businesses and 5.7% to businesses owned by veterans.
A link to the full database can be found here. Meanwhile, here are the top 10 restaurants in central Pa. that received the most relief through the SBA fund:
- Seven Hills, Inc., in Mechanicsburg, operating as Sbarro, $8.9 million
- Keystone Apple Inc, operator of local Applebee’s restaurants, $4.5 million
- Hershey Farm Restaurant and Motor Inn Inc. in Ronks, Lancaster County, $4.1 million
- White Rose Bar & Grill Inc. in York, $3.2 million
- Zig Restaurant Group Inc. in York, $2.6 million
- Allenberry Resort & Lodging LLC in Boiling Springs, $2.5 million
- Tigh Mhary Compay LLC operating in Lancaster as Tellus 360, $2.3 million
- East Dragon Restaurant Inc. in Lancaster, $1.9 million
- Ozenbaugh LLC operating as General Pickett’s Buffet in Gettysburg, $1.6 million
- Neato Burrito in New Cumberland, $1.6 million