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Missing: COVID Relief Dollars For Local Restaurateurs

Ali Warshavsky
Connecticut Public Radio

Local restaurant owners say they still haven’t got pandemic relief money, and they’re asking the federal government to replenish the fund that’s supposed to help.

Earlier this year, businesses began getting a portion of $28.6 billion in Restaurant Revitalization Funding set aside by the federal Small Business Administration. But that money has reportedly run out.

“Without that funding, we are not able to hire the people we need to hire,” said Jonathan Jennings of the Connecticut Wedding Group.

He said his company applied for relief at 12:01am the morning the fund opened up. But, it still hasn’t gotten a check.

“We are not able to pay the wages we want to pay, we are not able to repair things and invest in our infrastructure,” he said.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association said the federal dollars ran out as local restaurants have gotten just $301 million of roughly $780 million the Association says they need.

Jennings said that companies who were left out are now at a competitive disadvantage.

“Some of the people in the catering and private events sector in Connecticut have been funded while others have not been and the issue with that is that the ones who have been funded now have the resources to hire the staff, to deal with the increasing food costs, to pay higher wages, to repair and maintain their facilities to invest and additional marketing and advertising,” he said.

James Varano, the owner of Pig’s Eye Pub in Hartford, is feeling similarly left out.

“It’s sort of disheartening because we did everything right, filled out the paperwork for our RRF, pressed ‘send’ five minutes into it and then, come to find out it ran out of money,” Varano said.

“But yet, some of our competitors right around the block and the guy next door to me got theirs. It just didn’t seem to make any sense.”

Varano said his restaurant lost 70 percent of its revenue to the pandemic and it continues to struggle because of skyrocketing prices for goods. For example, Varano said chicken wings cost 30 percent more now.

Jennings said his group pays 50 percent more now for beef tenderloin.

Varano and Jennings were part of a group of leaders from the local restaurant community that spoke with Sen. Richard Blumenthal Monday. Blumenthal is among the federal lawmakers asking for an additional $60 billion in COVID-19 restaurant relief.

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