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Eligible restaurants can apply for funding through ESD’s “Raising the Bar” restaurant-recovery fund

By Eric Reinhardt (


Diners eat outdoors in Syracuse’s Armory Square during the pandemic. (CNYBJ file photo by Eric Reinhardt)

Empire State Development (ESD) has introduced the more than $3 million “Raising the Bar” restaurant-recovery fund to assist New York restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESD started accepting applications on Monday.

The “Raising the Bar” restaurant-recovery fund will help eligible restaurants adjust their operations to the impacts of COVID-19 and adherence to New York’s restrictions on restaurants in the winter months when outdoor dining is limited.

The grant funding has been made possible through financial donations led by New York City–based Diageo North America and supported by Coastal Pacific Wine & Spirits, a division of Miami, Florida–based Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. The funding will be available through the nonprofit National Development Council (NDC).


Eligible businesses include New York restaurants that have no more than $3 million in 2019 revenue and provide food services and meals prepared on-premises to customers who traditionally order and are served while seated, ESD said. They include certain on-premises food and drinking establishments licensed through the State Liquor Authority (SLA) and which need funding to adjust to COVID-related impacts and protocols.

Establishments providing take out or grab-and-go food services due to COVID-19 restrictions are also eligible to receive the grant from NDC. Additionally, these restaurants must have been in operation on or before March 1, 2019 and certify and demonstrate that they have had financial hardship due to COVID-19.

Eligible purchases

Recipients can use “Raising the Bar” grant funding for COVID-19-related improvements and equipment that will allow the business to comply with social-distancing guidelines; expand take-out/delivery operations; accommodate outdoor dining such as plexiglass barriers/partitions; signage promoting social distancing and hygiene protocols; and heaters, heat lamps, weatherization upgrades, and insulated delivery bags.

The funding could also cover improvements that will allow the business to continue operating through the winter months. They could include filtration-system upgrades and food heaters to maintain temperature for to-go orders and purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation supplies necessitated by the pandemic; and COVID-19 related business improvements like patio heaters or contactless technology.

Qualifying purchases and expenditures must have been made from Sept. 1, 2020 onwards to be eligible. Initial round of grants will include funding awards that are up to $5,000, ESD said.

For more information, visit the ESD website at



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