The latest COVID-19 relief bill will not revitalize the restaurant industry but it’s a step towards recovery, the president of the Texas Restaurant Association said.
Emily Williams Knight, president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, said an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 restaurants across the state have closed for good. What the nearly $900 billion stimulus package can offer is a ‘lifeline’ for struggling businesses like restaurants, Williams Knight said.
The package includes a new round of stimulus checks along with an extension of unemployment benefits. It also sets aside $284 billion towards forgivable small-business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (‘PPP’).
“I think another nod that happened in this bill is really all that restaurants have had to do in terms of cleaning supplies, PPE, reconfiguring their restaurant, investing in technology. Now, this Paycheck Protection Program, they can take deductibility on those expenses of up to 40%,” Williams Knight told NBC 5 Tuesday.
Specific guidance on how this round will work has not been released yet, a North Texas district director for the Small Business Administration told NBC 5 Tuesday.
Jason Pollard, managing partner for 'The Usual' in Fort Worth, said they plan to apply for the second round of PPP loans assuming if they are eligible and when applications open. 'The Usual' opened 11 years ago as a craft cocktail bar, but they reopened this past September under new permits as a restaurant after months of closure.
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“While we’re offering food, people don’t think of us as a place to get food. We’re just doing what we can, trying to survive as best we can and navigating how to do this safely,” Pollard said. “You worry, you know? You have a slower Friday or Saturday and you’re like, ‘oh man…is this the end?’”
Pollard said they were approved for a loan during the first round of PPP and if they are approved for a second time, it will mostly go to employees again.
“We’re sitting at about 35% of what our sales were last year. That’s not only hurting us as a business. That is devastating to the members of us team that we consider family,” he explained. “We want to make sure our people are taken care of. These are people who are working on tips a lot of times. Without any business and without being able to work safely, they have just had no income.”
The Texas Restaurant Association said recovery will likely take about two or three years, but this bill will give businesses a fighting chance to stay open for another three or four months.
“We’re very appreciative of Congress for getting it done but we know that in the new year, we’re going to have to come back and ask for additional support,” she said. “This is not going to be fixed overnight, but this is certainly going to give restaurants that lifeline that we have talked about so much.”
Williams Knight said the association has parameters set up for restaurants interested in applying for the second round of loans, though they are waiting for guidance from the Small Business Association and U.S. Treasury.