Struggling Black-owned businesses given grant opportunities

Small businesses have faced many challenges during the pandemic.

Palmer’s Bar in south Minneapolis was just able to reopen its doors last week, and owner Tony Zaccardi says he’s trying to do everything he can to make sure the doors stay open for the bar’s 115th year of business. Over the course of the pandemic, its doors have been closed for a total of nine months.

"It’s been a struggle, but there have been blips of hope trying to find a grant here or there that applies to my situation," Zaccardi said.

Zaccardi just put his name in the hat for another one. He recently applied for a grant through MEDA, the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, to help his bar get back on its feet and thrive.

An organization gave MEDA $1 million to spread among local black business owners.

"Half of it will go in the form of grants which are one-time grants, and the other half will go in the form of forgivable business loans, which is a little of the best of both worlds," said Alfredo Martel, MEDA’s president and CEO.

Martel said about 300 Black-owned business owners, including Zaccardi, have applied so far.

"One of the things that our current application rate is signaling to us is that we are nowhere near being done with this issue," Martel said.

Zaccardi said he wants to get various COVID-19 safety measures installed indoors to protect his staff and also revamp the bar’s outdoor space to create more seating and live music opportunities to bring back a sense of community for his customers.

"Here we are a family. … Also knowing the history of this bar, being such an old place, I did not want to be the person that messed it up — that lost Palmer’s Bar for our community — because you know it’s so well loved," Zaccardi said.

Black business owners can apply for the grant online until March 24.