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Booze Companies Team Up To Fund $3M New York Restaurant Grant Program

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Outdoor dining in Manhattan's East Village in December 2020

New York has a new fund aimed at helping restaurateurs adapt their businesses to the coronavirus pandemic.

A $3M privately funded grant program will enable restaurants to apply for up to $5K in relief to use toward things like retrofitting space to adhere to state-mandated social distancing requirements and improving outdoor dining set-ups, Empire State Development Corpannounced Tuesday.

The fund, dubbed the "Raising the Bar" Restaurant Recovery Fundis being financed by alcohol company Diageo, which owns brands such as Guinness, Don Julio, Bailey's and Johnnie Walker, and alcohol distributor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. The nonprofit National Development Council will review the applications and allocate the grants.

“The restaurant industry is a critical component of our state's economy — encompassing hundreds of small businesses who employ thousands of New Yorkers,” Empire State Development Corp. President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler said in a statement. “This industry has been among the hardest hit by the devastating effects of COVID-19, working hard to stay open, serve customers and keep employees safe."

The fund is for restaurants that pulled in less than $3M in 2019, and applications will be accepted beginning Jan. 11. This comes after the federal stimulus package signed into law last month offered no direct restaurant relief. The industry has been lobbying the Senate to pass a $120B relief fund package to subsidize losses sustained during the pandemic. The bill, dubbed the RESTAURANTS Act, has already been passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

Fifty-four percent of restaurants throughout the state say they will not make it through the next six months without federal aid, according to a survey published by the New York State Restaurant Association last month. This is higher than the national estimate of 36%, according to the trade association. 

“Our once vibrant restaurant industry is suffering,” NYSRA President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said in a release. “Our members are in worse economic shape than most restaurants across the country ....  it is time that our elected officials start fighting to save the industry before it is too late. Financial aid from the federal government is one of our last hopes.”