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Restaurants are getting $28 billion in federal aid. Here’s how to apply.

Restaurant Revitalization Funds, or RRF grants, will offer restaurants up to $10 million — even on top of PPP loans.
Restaurants along Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg sat quiet and empty in March 2020, during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants, bars and other food businesses that were hammered by the pandemic will soon be eligible to apply for up to $10 million in federal aid through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion tranche of relief approved as part of the American Rescue Plan.
Restaurants along Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg sat quiet and empty in March 2020, during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants, bars and other food businesses that were hammered by the pandemic will soon be eligible to apply for up to $10 million in federal aid through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion tranche of relief approved as part of the American Rescue Plan. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published Apr. 19
Updated Apr. 19

Restaurants hammered by the coronavirus pandemic are one step closer to getting federal aid.

The U.S. Small Business Administration over the weekend rolled out details and application guidelines for its Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion pot of relief money authorized by last month’s American Rescue Plan.

The program is open to restaurants, bars, food trucks and caterers. Breweries, brewpubs, wineries, distilleries and inns are also eligible, but must provide documentation that on-site sales accounted for at least a third of their gross receipts.

The program is aimed at smaller restaurants; brands with more than 20 locations — such as larger chains and franchisees — are ineligible. Businesses can get up to $10 million apiece, capped at $5 million per location, and can spend the money on eligible expenses through March 11, 2023.

Related: Restaurant relief grants worth $25 billion could arrive via new stimulus bill

One detail that might raise eyebrows among potential applicants: The administration did not announce a date for when applications would open; only that some would be filed via a new portal system. That prospect might worry those who have followed the government’s long-delayed Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

Approved in December, Shuttered Venue Operators Grants — which provide up to $10 million for entertainment venues, museums and other attractions — were delayed more than three months while the government worked out the details. Its application portal launched April 8, only to shut down almost immediately amid technical problems. The administration has said it aims to get that portal up and running again by the end of this week.

Related: After long wait, concert venues set for millions in pandemic relief grants

As for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the government has released a 16-page sample application that business owners can go ahead and start working on. Among the details to know:

  • The basic formula: Businesses should calculate the difference in their monthly receipts in 2019 and 2020, not counting any pandemic-related relief loans and grants they’ve already gotten. (The formula is largely the same for businesses that opened midway through 2019, or in 2020 or 2021, with slight tweaks.)
  • Eligible expenses include payroll costs; rent, mortgage, utility and debt payments; costs associated with pandemic-related safety, including outdoor seating and protective equipment; and operating expenses including food, beverage and supplier costs.
  • Businesses that have already gotten Paycheck Protection Program loans are eligible, although any that still have open loan applications are expected to withdraw them. The amount a restaurant got from the Paycheck Protection Program will be a factor in the grant allocation.
  • Businesses that got Economic Injury Disaster Loans are eligible, but those that received (or have applied for) Shuttered Venue Operators Grants are not. And businesses can only apply for one Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant.
  • In addition to the portal, businesses can also apply by phone or through a Small Business Administration-recognized point-of-sale restaurant partner. Businesses can check with their tech vendors to see if they qualify as partners.
  • Small businesses will see nearly $10 billion in set-aside aid, including $5.5 billion for restaurants that made less than $500,000 in 2019. Priority will be given to businesses owned by women, veterans and the socially or economically disadvantaged; with these businesses getting first crack at relief during the first three weeks of the application process.

More guidelines are available at sba.gov/restaurants.