Bill addresses large revenue drop
CAMILLUS — Onondaga County’s restaurants experienced a 27 percent drop in revenue during the pandemic-impacted months of 2020.
Consumers spent about $462 million in eateries during the spring, summer, and fall of 2020, compared to the $631 million they spent during the same period the year before.
Some restaurants in the county chose to close temporarily during the pandemic and others — including 22 in Onondaga County alone — “will never reopen.”
That’s according to the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.).
Schumer on Feb. 15 said he plans to include a restaurant-relief fund in the proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill pending in Congress.
Schumer announced the fund during an appearance at Brasserie Bar and Bistro, located at Township 5 in Camillus. Michelle Roesch, owner of Brasserie Bar and Bistro, and Bud Loura, owner of Restaurant QB, joined Schumer for the announcement.
Schumer’s office tells CNYBJ that the fund is contingent upon Congressional passage of the latest federal COVID relief bill and President Joe Biden’s signature, which are “anticipated in the coming weeks.”
Food service or drinking establishments — including caterers, brewpubs, taprooms, and tasting rooms, that are not part of an affiliated group with more than 20 locations —would be eligible for the grants.
Schumer explained that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) would administer the restaurant grant assistance and “provide much-needed relief” to Central New York’s restaurants.
Restaurants could use grants from the fund alongside first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit.
Schumer said the federal aid would aim to provide a “lifeline” to struggling restaurants and help recuperate some of the industry’s “significant” revenue losses. The majority leader cited a media report that said Onondaga County’s restaurants have experienced a 27 percent drop in revenue during pandemic.
The proposed restaurant-relief fund will be designed to provide flexible grants that can be used to cover payroll, mortgages or rent, setup for outdoor seating, PPE, paid leave, food and other supplies, or debt and other expenses.
“Central New York’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, burning our beloved restaurant industry,” Schumer said. “Restaurants and bars are the heartbeat of our Main Streets and sadly are on life support as the first to make sacrifices and close for the sake of public. It’s time for the federal government to whip up some federal dollars and finally serve the restaurants that have served our communities for years.”
The most recent survey released by the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) indicates that more than half (54 percent) of New York restaurants said they likely would not survive the next six months without federal relief.
That figure compares to 37 percent of restaurants nationwide, which indicates the “dire situation” that the restaurant industry in New York is facing, Schumer said.
The NYSRA also estimated from its survey that 3,833 restaurants in upstate New York have already been forced to close due to the pandemic.
Should lawmakers approve this fund, the maximum grant amounts would be $10 million per restaurant group and $5 million per individual restaurant, per Schumer’s office.
The eligible expenses would include payroll and benefits; mortgage, rent, utilities, and maintenance; supplies including protective equipment and cleaning materials; food; operational expenses; covered supplier costs as defined by the SBA under the PPP program; sick leave; and any other expenses deemed essential by the administrator.
The grants can be spent on eligible expenses occurring between Feb. 15, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021 and the administrator may extend the period “two years from enactment if conditions warrant.”