Thousands of Minnesota restaurants shut out of federal pandemic funding |

Thousands of Minnesota restaurants shut out of federal pandemic funding

Tom Hauser
Updated: July 14, 2021 06:42 PM
Created: July 14, 2021 05:51 PM

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was supposed to be a lifeline for thousands of restaurants in Minnesota and around the country. Instead, it's the source of major disappointment for more than half the restaurants in Minnesota that applied for funding and didn't get anything.

"Unfortunately, it became a situation where there was winners and losers, and I don't think that was the intent," said Pat Mancini, of Mancini's Char House in St. Paul.

His restaurant was notified it will not receive any funding because the RRF program ran out of money after funding just 40% of applicants.

"The ones that didn't get the funds are put at a disadvantage right now," he added.

Mancini said his restaurant continued paying bills, including health insurance for employees, despite having little or no revenue coming in.

More than 1,700 Minnesota restaurants did receive funding, ranging from $1,555 for Ebony and Ivory Chefs to $10 million for D'Amico Holding Company. However, nearly 2,500 restaurants in the state received nothing.

Blake Montpetit of Tiffany Sports Lounge in St. Paul said he applied for funding the minute the website for applications opened. He has no idea why his family-owned, 50-year-old establishment received nothing. He was stunned when he was notified by the Small Business Administration.

"I think the email came out at 10 o'clock on a Friday night. ... It was devastating," he said. "Going down the list and seeing the amounts other people have gotten that they deserve, but everyone should be on the same playing field with these funds."

Montpetit said his restaurant revenues were down 60% in 2020 after the government forced him to close either completely or partially for 259 days.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is separate from the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered loans to restaurants and other companies to get by during the pandemic. The RRF is specifically designed to help restaurants recover revenue lost during government-forced closures.

"The Restaurant Revitalization fund was supposed to be able to recover lost revenue," said Ben Wogsland, of Hospitality Minnesota. "What we've seen with this program is that although it was a great idea to start with ... it was vastly underfunded, and we need to make sure that they now fully fund the Restaurant Revitalization Fund."

Wogsland says Hospitality Minnesota sent letters to Minnesota's congressional delegation asking for their support of a $60 billion bill that would replenish the RRF. They also wrote a letter to Gov. Tim Walz asking him to consider using some federal pandemic funds to help Minnesota restaurants.

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