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The federal government packed a bounty of relief in its passage of the $900 billion stimulus package in December, including the long-awaited Save Our Stages Act, which provides $15 billion in the form of “Shuttered Venue Operators Grants” for “live venues, indie movie theaters, and cultural institutions” like the Sweetwater Music HallThrockmorton Theatre and Marin Theatre Company, who have been thrashed by their complete inability to gather people in a room to experience live music and performance since mid-March.

It also included an additional $285 billion to revive the Paycheck Protection Program, which Mill Valley businesses took advantage of to the tune of $58 million earlier this year, as well as cash payments of up to $600 a person for households earning up to $75,000 and supplemental federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week for 11 weeks.

What it didn’t include got less attention. But one of the key forms of relief for small restaurants like those in Mill Valley, the Restaurants Act, was left out of that prior stimulus but is expected to be in the $1.9 trillion stimulus that House Democrats hope to pass via a budget reconciliation bill on Friday in advance of hearings on the package in the U.S. Senate. 

The Restaurants Act provides $25 billion in relief in the form of grants of up to $10 million to small restaurants will be voted on the week of Feb. 22. Here are some of the eligibility details, according to Restaurant Hospitality:

  • The $25 billion would be divided into government-funded grants with a maximum of $10 million per restaurant group or $5 million per individual restaurant location.
  • Eligible businesses include foodservice and drinking establishments like restaurants, bars, caterers, breweries, taprooms, and tasting rooms that are not part of an affiliated restaurant group with more than 20 locations. Participants cannot be publicly traded and there are limits on private equity firms. Participants also cannot currently be an applicant for the Shuttered Venues Operators grant program.
  • Grants can be spent on payroll and benefits up to $100,000 a year, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies (including PPE and cleaning products), food and beverages, supplier costs, operational expenses, and paid sick leave
  • The covered period is from Feb 15, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2021.
  • The grants can be taken alongside the two rounds of PPP, EIDL, and the Employee Retention Tax Credits, though any PPP loans already received will be subtracted from the eligible grant total for any individual business.

“We’ve cleared another important hurdle in our long fight to provide local, independent restaurants the help they need,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D.-Ore.), who originally proposed the bill, told Restaurant Hospitality.

Grants are calculated differently based on how long a restaurant has been open and the PPP loans they might have already received. For example, for established restaurants that opened in 2018 or earlier, grants are calculated by subtracting a business’ 2020 revenue from their 2019 revenue, and also subtracting first- and second-draw PPP loans received in 2020.

The restaurant relief fund prioritizes socioeconomically disadvantaged businesses, with businesses owned by women, veterans or socially/economically disadvantaged groups prioritized in the first 21 days of grant applications. Additionally, $5 billion of the $25 billion total is reserved for restaurants with less than $500,000 in gross receipts in 2019. Any funds leftover after the first 60 days of grant eligibility will be opened up to larger businesses.

We’ll keep you posted.

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