San Francisco area restaurants receive $ 815 million in federal grants


The $ 2 million landed in Urban Putt’s bank account as Steve Fox, the owner of the beloved mini-golf course and restaurant on South Van Ness Avenue and 22nd Street, was at his house. He can’t jump that high, but he attempted a jump to click his heels in elation. “I thought, ‘Phew. We are saved !’ He remembers.

He was not alone. Federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was created in March 2021 as part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, has indeed saved some 1,300 businesses in and around San Francisco – with a total of $ 815 million in grants. The top three San Francisco zip codes receiving federal dollars were 94102, 94133 and 94110, encompassing Downtown / SoMa, Chinatown / North Beach and the Mission, according to an analysis from Mission Local.

Urban Putt, which reopened on March 31, had been closed for 54 weeks, draining the company’s cash reserves to near zero, Fox said. So, like hundreds of thousands of others nationwide, he applied for a federal grant program. He didn’t think he was going to get it.

“I imagined that there would be a long time [Urban Putt] trying to earn enough money to pay off the loans, ”Fox said. “It takes that pressure off. It is very wonderful.

The federal program gave businesses an amount equal to their pandemic-related losses with a maximum of $ 10 million. Indeed, a few of San Francisco’s top winners have secured $ 10 million (McCalls Catering and Events in the Mission; Lori’s Diner; San Francisco C&C, the company that owns Mel’s Drive-In restaurants; and GOTHAM ENTERPRISE LLC , the company that helped launch Peet’s Coffee at San Francisco International Airport.) The lowest grant was just over $ 1,500 and was awarded to Le Dix-Sept LLC.

The top ten winners of the US Small Business Administration Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Data source: US SBA. Analysis by local mission.

The amount each business received was based on the income it earned in previous years. “We did well in 2019,” explained Fox. The money expires in March 2023 and must be used for certain expenses like payroll or utilities.

Additionally, businesses owned by people from marginalized groups were prioritized by the Restaurant Revitalization Program and given a three-week advance to apply.

Still, it was competitive. Some 278,000 requests were sent and 101,000 were accepted, according to the US Small Business Administration, who managed the fund. On average, the scholarships amounted to $ 283,000.

Underserved populations received approximately $ 18 billion from the $ 28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund This chart shows the breakdown. Source: US Small Business Administration.

Beneficiaries can spend the money for several and specific uses: payroll, mortgage payments, rent, operating expenses and construction of outdoor spaces.

Granted, grants will be welcome. The pandemic hit downtown businesses as tech and financial firms evacuated the neighborhood during the shutdown and clubs and bars closed. Restaurants in Chinatown were hit months before the city closed in March, as racist rumors that the Chinese caused the coronavirus repelled customers. The Mission, already an underserved area, quickly became one of the city’s epicenters for viral spread.

It was difficult for Fox, one of those Mission recipients. He came in every day to clean up the place, imagining when he could finally restore his staff to pre-pandemic levels. Like many others had to do, he laid off workers and took out loans to stay afloat.

Now the grant money will pay off an amalgam of bills: past due rents, utilities “that are important enough for this place”, food and supplies, and of course, payroll. Because it was a big request and among hundreds of thousands of applicants, Fox was surprised to get the money. He got every penny he asked for.

The grant also allows him to rehire an events director, who Urban Putt has relied on to book parties and other income-generating events.

“It looked like manna from heaven,” Fox said.

And Urban Putt was one of the many recipients based in the mission. In fact, the mission had the greatest number of laureates. Overall, 139 mission companies received money, for a total of over $ 71 million. Most notably, McCalls Catering and Events on 1798 Bryant St. was one of four to land a grant of $ 10 million, the city’s highest amount. Local favorites Taquerias El Farolito, which has multiple locations in the city and region, received the second highest prize in the neighborhood of $ 4.2 million.

A list of Mission Restaurant winners with zip code 94110. Data source: US Small Business Administration. Analysis by local mission.

The zip code that received the least assistance was 94143, Visitacion Valley. Only one company received money: Sugar Jones, a food service company, received $ 323,154. The Visitacion Valley is historically underserved and, along with Mission and Bayview, this is where Covid-19 has spread rapidly.

Fox said spending all the money before 2023 would be no problem.

“I mean it’s a big amount of money, but I’m afraid people will say we’re rolling on the money. We lost so much money when we closed, ”Fox said. “It’s just starting to chip the hole.”


About Christopher Easley

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