U.S. restaurants are among the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic over the past 14 months. According to the National Restaurant Association, total sales last year came in $240 billion below forecast. An estimated 110,000 restaurants had closed either temporarily or permanently as of Dec. 1, 2020.

In response, Congress included the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law on March 11. The fund aims to provide $28.6 billion in grants to help restaurants recover their pandemic-related revenue losses, and to adapt to a post-pandemic world with safety measures such as installing partitions, establishing safe dining pods, instituting touchless ordering and other changes. The grants are intended for those restaurants that have suffered significant pandemic-related revenue loss.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund applications through the Small Business Administration portal opened Monday, May 3, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. Here are answers to key questions you might be asking:

Who is eligible?

Eligible entities are businesses that are open, temporarily closed or not yet open and include businesses where the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being served food or drink, including, without limitation:

  • Restaurants
  • Food stands, food trucks, food carts
  • Caterers
  • Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
  • Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products
  • Other similar places of business in which the public or patrons assemble for the primary purpose of being serviced food or drink
  • Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
  • Bakeries
  • Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms
  • Breweries and/or microbreweries
  • Wineries and distilleries
  • Inns

To be eligible, bakeries, brewpubs, tasting room, tap rooms, breweries, wineries, distilleries and inns must provide documentation with their application that on-site sales of food and beverage to the public comprised at least 33% of gross receipts in 2019. Businesses in this category that opened in 2020 or that have not yet opened must show that their original business model contemplated at least 33% of gross receipts from on-site sales to the public.

Businesses that are permanently closed are ineligible. Further, businesses that have applied for and received a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant, or have pending applications for a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant are also ineligible.

All applicants must make a good faith certification that current economic uncertainty makes this funding request necessary to support the ongoing or anticipated operations of the applicant.

What special documentation is required?

All applicants must submit SBA Form 3172, IRS Form 4506-T, and provide documentation of gross receipts, as required.

What is the maximum grant?

The Small Business Administration may provide funding of up to $5 million per location (not to exceed $10 million total) for applicants that meet certain conditions.

Are there other stipulations?

Businesses that received PPP funding are eligible to apply for this program, but any award under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund may be reduced by the amount of such PPP funding. If, however, a business has a pending PPP application and is applying for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the applicant should withdraw any open PPP application.

Under what circumstances might we have to repay the funds?

Funds must be used by March 11, 2023. Awardees will not be required to repay funds received under the program unless the funds were used for purposes other than for authorized purposes or if the awardee permanently closed before using all funds on authorized purposes.

How do I apply?

Applicants must pre-register on the SBA portal. Registration opened April 30, 2021. Restaurant Revitalization Fund applications open on Monday, May 3, 2021 at 12:00 p.m.

There are three ways to apply:

  • Through a recognized SBA Restaurant Partner;
  • Through SBA at www.restaurants.sba.gov; or
  • By phone at 844-279-8898

Harris Beach attorneys continuously monitor the requirements of various government funding programs passed since the start of the pandemic. Contact Natalie Matychak for help with the Restaurant Revitalization Fund or to discuss other options.

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.