For the thousands of restaurants in this country that have already been stretched to their limits, surviving the next few months of this pandemic is starting to look like an impossibility. Fortunately, all is not lost yet. Earlier this week, Congress created a new program through the SBA that would enable small business owners in the restaurant industry to apply for grants of up to $5 million. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks discuss the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund and advise small business owners on how to qualify for a grant.
1:03—The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was created on March 11th as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Congress gave a sum of $28 billion to the SBA to help provide restaurants and hospitality businesses with the financial assistance they need.
2:47—Restaurants, food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, bars, saloons, lounges, taverns, as well as snack and non-alcoholic beverage bars are all eligible for grants through this program. Bakeries, breweries, micro-breweries, brew pubs, tasting rooms, taprooms, wineries, distilleries and inns are also eligible, provided that 33% of their gross receipts consist of onsite sales to the public.
5:13—While there are no business model restrictions for these grants, your small business cannot be a part of a chain.
6:09—Priority for these grants will be given to small business owners who are struggling the most; special provisions are also being made for business owners who identify as a member of a marginalized group.
7:31—The difference in revenue between your 2020 and your 2019 gross receipts will determine how much money you can request through this grant.
9:21—Be sure to consult with Form 3172 on the SBA.gov website to find out what kind of paperwork and documentation you will need to complete your application.
11:57—To prevent fraud, the SBA will require regular usage reports from everyone who qualifies for a grant. This documentation will ensure that the money is being used appropriately.
16:14—Business owners who received a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant or applied for one are not eligible for this program. If you received a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, your new grant through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund cannot cover the same costs of your PPP loan.
18:37—Franchises are classified differently from chains, so owners of a franchise are still eligible for a grant. Nonprofits are not eligible for this round of funding.
19:09—Your grant request should be a minimum of $1,000. You can apply for as much as $5 million per location, but businesses with more than one location are capped at a maximum of $10 million.
19:45—It’s important to apply for this grant as soon as possible, especially if you’re part of a marginalized group, because this reserve will likely be depleted in a short amount of time.
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Jon: Hello everybody. And welcome back to another episode of Small Biz Ahead, the small business podcast presented by The Hartford. This is Jon Aidukonis. I’m here with my co-host, Gene Marks. And today we are talking all about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Gene, good morning. How are you?
Gene: Jon, great to speak with you. And this is a big day. We’re recording this on May 3rd, and this is the day where the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is supposed to open. And by the way, given the history of the Small Business Administration and these programs, I’m expecting it opens and then it shuts an hour later because it gets overwhelmed or the website breaks down because that seems to me what’s been happening of late.
Jon: Well, it’s true. I mean, just with everything related to COVID-related funding, there’s so much demand and I just think not enough supply. So, excited to kind of talk to you about this program because I think this was really geared to try and solve that need.
But a little background for our listeners. This is a program that became part of public law on March 11th, and it was part of the American Rescue Plan Act. So, essentially, Congress has put over $28 billion to the SBA to reserve for grant awards essentially for restaurants and hospitality businesses to get funding and kind of help pivot towards continued growth and making sure business operations can stay intact.
So, it’s called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, but it’s for more than just restaurants as you typically think about them. This is really kind of a broad set of hospitality business. So, if you’re a food truck owner or you have a food cart in a downtown district, a caterer, you own a bar, maybe even an inn or a bakery or a brewery, kind of similar places to that, you might be eligible. So, we’ll talk a little bit more about who is eligible and what that means in a moment, but a pretty big act of Congress to support our restaurant owners, and probably the biggest related to COVID legislation that we’ve seen so far. Would you agree, Gene?
Gene: Yeah, I agree, Jon. And just to make sure everyone understands that this is different than the Paycheck Protection Program. It’s not PPP. And in fact, even if you participated in PPP, you can still apply for these funds.
This is a straight out grant. This is not a loan program. So, you apply, again, like Jon said… Jon, you said I think there was 28 billion. I had 29.5 billion, but hey, what’s 1.5 billion between friends? It’s a lot of money that’s available, and, again, it’s grants. So, as long as you play by the rules, whatever money you get, you do not have to pay back.
Jon: That’s true. All right. So, Gene, walk me through this a little bit. Who is eligible for this program?
Gene: So, you had mentioned briefly some of the entities, but I want to be detailed on this one. So, I’m literally going to read out the list of entities of businesses that are eligible. So, if you’re listening, stand by to see if any of these matches your business. Restaurants are eligible. Food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, bars, saloons, lounges, taverns, snack and non-alcoholic beverage bars, bakeries who make onsite sales to the public of more than 33% of their gross receipts. Brew pubs, tasting rooms, taprooms. Again, 33% have got to be made their sales to the public. Breweries, micro-breweries. 33% need to be sold to the public. As well as wineries and distilleries and inns, where onsite sales of food and beverage, again, 33% of their gross receipts are sold to the public at least. And licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer, where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products. So, those are the specific entities that are allowed to apply for this grant.
If I’ve listed something off that sounds like your business, then you should be going to the SBA’s website to do this. And by the way, it’s sba.gov is where you want to go. You’ll see right there “COVID Relief Options” and you’ll see the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Jon: Awesome. Thanks, Gene. And we’re going to talk about it a little bit in a minute when we get into kind of the calculation, but know that even if you’re a business who hadn’t opened yet in 2019 or maybe even through March of 2021, but you fall into one of those categories and your business plan or your kind of pro-forma forecast, if you feel like your business will rely on 33% of those gross receipts and on-site sales, you might still be eligible, correct?
Gene: Yeah, a hundred percent. In fact, I literally just emailed a friend of mine this morning, who… he opened his business in late 2019 and early 2020, and he wasn’t sure if he would be eligible, and he is. So, there are specific rules for when you’ve opened, but you’re right, if you’ve pretty much opened your business anywhere before March of 2020, you’re going to be eligible for this program. So, it’s something that you want to be looking into.
Jon: Awesome. Now, is there a business model restriction? So, do you have to be a sole proprietor to be eligible for this? Or do you have to be an LLC? Kind of anything around there?
Gene: No. There really isn’t. I mean, you can be any type of business organization. You could file a Schedule C. You could be a partnership. You could be an S corporation. So, there’s really no restriction on the type of business that you are.
You can’t be part of a chain. Chain restaurants are not allowed to apply. So, you can be an independent franchisor, but, again, they want to kind of eliminate all of the big-box chains from taking advantage of this program.
Jon: Got it. And yeah, it’s interesting how they kind of set this one up because even out of that 28, 29 billion they set aside, there’s kind of tranches that are set off for specific kind of revenues, breaks in businesses, correct?
Gene: Yeah, there is. So, the program, again, opens… you and I, again, are speaking on May 3rd, so the program is opening today. $5 billion have been set aside for companies with less than $500,000 in gross receipts. And then another $4 billion has been set aside for companies with less than $1.5 million of gross receipts. By the way, these are gross receipts from 2019. And then $500 million is then set aside for people that have gross receipts that are up to $50,000. So, they’re really trying hard to set aside this money for small, small, independent restaurants. They’re the ones that are going to get first dibs to this money. So, it’s definitely something that you want to be thinking of.
And then, of course, there are also some special provisions that are being made for minority-owned restaurants, for socially-disadvantaged restaurants, for women-owned, for veterans-owned as well. They will all get priority for this money. And the way that it’s happening is like the first three weeks of this application period, those people getting… that are that small or that are, again, minority, womens-owned, veterans-owned, socially and economic-disadvantaged individuals, which there really isn’t a definition for that yet, but they’re still the ones that are going to be getting the priority money. So, you want to be aware of that.
Jon: Awesome. And so, I guess talking through that, once you’re eligible to apply, how does the calculation work? How do you kind of figure out how much money you can ask for? What do the limits look like? How would someone kind of think about that?
Gene: Just to keep it very, very simple, because it’ll get more complicated depending on when you started up your business. But really, Jon, all you’re doing is you’re taking your 2020 revenues, they’re calling it “gross receipts.” So, rule of thumb, it’s generally the revenues that you’re showing on your tax return or your Schedule C. So, that’s your reported revenues for 2020. And you’re comparing it to 2019. So, 2020, the assumption is not a great year for your business. 2019 was probably a much better year. Whatever the difference in revenues are, or gross receipts, between 2020 and 2019, that is the amount that you’re available to get.
And the amount can go up to 10… sorry, $5 million per location, or $10 million in total. So, again, if you had $1 million in revenue in 2019, and you had $300,000 in revenue in 2020, you’re eligible for a $700,000 grant of money from the SBA. That’s generally how it’s calculated.
And again, there are specific provisions, which you can see on their website, for calculating it. If you started your business midway through 2019, or even early in 2020. We don’t have to get into those, but just be aware that you can still be included there, as long as you started your business operations in some way before March 11th of 2020 through 2021.
Jon: Got it. So, I’m assuming most people kind of instinctually feel like they might be eligible, and they go to check it out. What kind of application documentation is required? Or what might someone kind of need to do his homework before they get in? Because, to your point, these applications tend to go up and fill quickly. There tends to be a lot of demand on the platform, so it kind of pays a little bit to come prepared. Is it really just those P&L statements? Or what other documents might someone need to kind of have handy to go?
Gene: Well, the best thing that you can do is if you go to the SBA’s website, again, under their “COVID Relief Options” for Restaurant Revitalization Fund, you’re going to have to fill out Form 3172. The form itself, there’s a sample form that you can look at and download in advance. And I strongly recommend that you download that form first and you go through it so you know in advance all the things that you’re going to need.
And generally, you’re going to need to basically verify your tax information. Most of this stuff is coming off of your tax returns. That’s going to be the first form of documentation. So, you want to have all of your tax returns available.
If you haven’t filed your tax return for 2020 yet, if you’ve extended it, you could use internally prepared financial statements as well. And also, you should have bank statements at your disposal so that when you fill out the form, you can take numbers from any of those sources. The best documentation though is your tax returns. So, it really does behoove you to get those things filled out and to have your tax returns filed in advance.
By the way, besides the SBA and applying, the SBA has partnered with some of the major point-of-sale providers out there, Jon. So, Square and Toast and Clover, some of those guys, they’re also accepting applications for this fund. If you’ve been a longtime Square or Toast or Clover user, for example, they’re going to be able to provide all of your gross receipts information because they’ve got it through your point-of-sale system. So, you can kind of lean on them to provide that data.
So, bottom line is though, you want to look for the Form 3172 and go through that in advance so that you’re completely ready to go.
Jon: Got it. So, that’s a good point because I think there’s three ways to apply. So, Gene, as you said, if you use one of the SBA’s point-of-sale restaurant partners, which I’m sure you can get a list of all of them at their website. Two, you can apply online at restaurants.sba.gov. Or if you’re someone who doesn’t have internet access, you can also apply telephonically. So, definitely giving a couple options depending on where you are and what you can do at the moment.
So, Gene, tell me a little bit about kind of the uses of reporting requirements. So, if you’re going in for this, kind of what are the things that you should have down as what you need the money for? And how do you kind of keep track and demonstrate that? Or do you need to?
Gene: So, there will be reporting requirements. It’s not like you’re just going to get a check, and then you just go on. So, you are going to have regular reporting requirements back to the SBA. And the SBA, like they were with the Paycheck Protection Program, are going to be very highly sensitive to potential fraud. So, when you’re handing out $29.5 billion of money, there’s just going to be that risk of fraud.
The uses of funds though, Jon, are pretty much everything. I mean, you have to document and say, “Here’s what we need the money for.” And I’m going to list out some of the ones, just so you know: payroll costs, business mortgages, rent payments, debt service, utilities, maintenance expenses. How about this one? Construction of outdoor seating is also an eligible use of funds. Supplies, food and beverage expenses, supplier costs. And then they say “business operating expenses” which is sort of this catchall. So, you have a wide definition of how you can use this grant money.
And I got to tell you, when I speak to a lot of my clients who are in the restaurant business, Jon, they are begging for employees. I mean, there’s a labor shortage going on right now. So, a lot of them are planning on using some of this to offer signing bonuses or other bonuses to come back to work. So, it’s kind of like an offset to… some people have been complaining because the unemployment insurance goes out, federal supplement through September, and that’s keeping people off the payrolls. Well, here we’re taking government funds and giving it to the employees through the use of this Restaurant Revitalization Program. So, it’s like another way to combat that, to bring them back by giving them some signing bonuses. And you can do that because it’s an applicable payroll cost. So, those are all the funds and what you could use it for.
And remember, you will have to have some reporting requirements ongoing as to how you’re using it. You don’t want to go out and buy a yacht. That’s basically the takeaway.
Jon: Well, what’s interesting too, to your kind of business operating expense line, that is really broad, and I just want to kind of put a pin in that for our audience. So, if you are one of these companies who really kind of had an innovation moment and maybe need some legal support as you kind of figure out how to bring a new product or operating model to bear or you’re really trying to kind of re-market your brand or your business, those things can be done. So, I think it’s really a generous program.
Even to your point on kind of the outdoor seating. If you have to change to kind of make people more comfortable or to kind of adapt to this new normal, it really kind of thought about that, which is nice to see.
Gene: It’s really funny. I wrote about this in a couple different places over the past few weeks about the opportunities for people in the restaurant industry. I mean, they had a devastating year in 2020, but I don’t know, Jon, if it’s the same with you. I mean, I walk around in Philly, and most of the restaurants around me have reopened. They hunkered down through 2021. They survived off of deliveries and very limited seating capacity. But they’re back, and I can see the crowds coming back as well, as more people get vaccinated. And now the smart ones are going to apply for these funds, so they’re going to have this influx of capital available for them, like you just said, to use for marketing, to use for operations, to bring back their employees.
It’s almost like a reward. It’s almost like the government saying, “I know you went through a lot of bad stuff during these shutdowns. That’s not good. Here is $29 billion that we’re going to give you to thank you for still being around. Take this money and use it to grow your business.” And I think a lot of restaurants are going to be taking advantage of it. Some of my clients are concerned that the money’s going to run out.
Jon: Yeah. I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes… I mean, it sounds like a big number, but there’s a lot of need. And I do think, to your point, I see a lot of more the restaurant, kind of family-style restaurants or restaurants and bars coming back. And I think it’s just a product of kind of the local regulations. But in my area, even bars and clubs and venues, I don’t think they’re allowed to open for another couple weeks. So, there are some folks who’ve been out of work for a complete year. And I do want to kind of go to that for a minute.
So, we’ve talked a little bit before about the Shuttered Venue Program, which I believe, if you want to apply for this one, you cannot have received a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant or have a pending application for one. But if your business is still technically established and you’re just really late on catching up on bills or you kind of had to think differently around how to keep things sustained over the past year while you’ve had no income, this grant program can be used for that. So, if you have past due amounts to your partners, I think it’s between February of last year and March of this year, it’s something to think about if your business is technically still in good standing.
Gene: Hundred percent. And remember, this program is independent of the Paycheck Protection Program. The only issue is you cannot double-dip. So, if you did participate in the Paycheck Protection Program and you got a forgivable loan for that, you can’t use the same costs that you used in that program to also justify the grant as well under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Other than that, you’re absolutely right. I mean, you should be taking this money to catch up.
Some of my clients also, they had rent abatement. So, their landlords were like, “Okay, well, we’re going to hold off on charging you rent this year.” There’s going to be an issue about rent forgiveness will be next, but landlords struggled as well this year. Many of them, these are business owners themselves, property managers and development companies. So, these restaurants owe this rent back that they were not paying during 2020, and the funds can be used to do that. So, in many ways it should help restaurants catch up to where they were before and hopefully get themselves righted so that they can move on and grow and be profitable.
Jon: Awesome. And I want to kind of go back too, because I know you mentioned chain companies weren’t available, but that doesn’t necessarily include franchises, right?
Jon: So, if you’re an owner-operator of a franchise, you might still be eligible. You can check the SBA franchise directory for a listing there to kind of see if you are. But if you’re a non-profit organization, am I correct in that you’re not eligible for this round of funding?
Gene: Yeah. This is not for non-profits. I mean, this is for for-profit restaurants. So, it is not a non-profit program geared to that.
Jon: And then there is a minimum amount, right? So, you need to have a request of at least $1,000.
Jon: Anything under that, they’re looking as kind of not dramatically tied to the success of your business. So, think big with this. And you can go up to 5 million per location.
But there is a limit if you own a couple businesses, right? So, it’s 10 million max, if I’m correct. If you have any affiliated businesses, that’s kind of the max draw you can take between anything you own, correct?
Gene: Correct. So, it’s $5 million per location with $10 million max that you can borrow… not borrow, but you would be able to get under the fund.
Jon: I mean, how are you kind of thinking about this with your client? If someone’s kind of considering, is there any kind of advice you would give them?
Gene: Yeah. I mean, the first advice is to make everybody aware that this program exists. And you’d be surprised at how many business owners just are not aware. I mean, you’re running a restaurant, you’re busy doing a lot of other things right now and trying to get back up in business, and you’re not aware that this program is there.
The second piece of advice that I have is to jump into the queue immediately. So, even though there’s a priority period, if you… the first three weeks, it’s really priority for people that are, again, women, veterans, socially and economic-advantaged individuals. And again, those definitions are pretty wide, and they’re on the SBA’s website. Just so you know, a socially-disadvantaged individuals are those who’ve been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice. Economically-disadvantaged individuals are those individuals who their ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired because they haven’t been able to get capital or credit opportunities. And it’s a kind of a wide definition. So, again, if you are in that qualification, you need to get your application in fast because you will be prioritized in the next three weeks before it opens up to everybody else.
If you are not part of those groups, you need to go and look at the SBA form that I mentioned before, Form 3172, get your tax returns available, get your internal statements together, get your bank statements together as well, and get ready to apply. Keep a close eye because at some point in the next three weeks, the SBA’s going to open up this application to all applicants, and it’s going to be a rush. So, you want to jump in on that and get yourself in the queue because, like I said earlier, I don’t know, I do have a concern as to how long this money is going to last, and it’s crazy not to take advantage of it if you’re in the restaurant industry.
Jon: Yeah. I mean, it really does feel like a good opportunity. And I feel like so much of the programs have been so broad, that to see something really tailored to kind of one category that have thought about how they operate feels good and it feels like a urgently needed program for kind of all of our communities. So, I’m happy to kind of see it brought to bear.
Gene: Yep. I agree. And hopefully, we’ll be providing more information about this on Small Biz Ahead’s website. So, let’s you and I definitely talk to Hannah about that because I think there should be some written backup even to this conversation. I promise we’ll try and work on that.
Jon: For sure. Yeah, I agree. And I think with all of these programs, this is what it is today. So, again, we’re recording this on May 3rd. So, if there’s changes, enhancements, updates, we’ll make sure to keep you posted, but I think this is all that we have out there today. We’ll make sure to put the links kind of in the show notes and the article description just to where you can go to get more information. But, again, it’s restaurants.sba.gov. Or you can just go to sba.gov in order to find out a little bit more and download their guide and kind of find out a lot of the descriptions and explanations around some of the terms that they’re using, if you have any questions. It will come straight from the horse’s mouth. Gene, anything else you want the folks to know?
Gene: No, Jon, I think that’s good. I just want to say if you’re a restaurant owner and you are listening to this and you’re still around, I am inspired by you. So, no one has gone through the type of year, no business owner that I think you’ve gone through. And now is your chance to get a little money back for all the pain that you’ve suffered this past year. So, I am imploring you to jump on this grant program and take advantage of it now while the funds are there. You’ve earned it.
Jon: I agree. Yeah. The resiliency we’ve seen has been incredible, and inspiring is a good word because I’m with you. I don’t think we’ve seen anyone else need to adapt and pivot and sustain on bare bones as long as we’ve seen this crew. So, thank you for all that you do, and we hope this was helpful to you.
So, Gene, I guess we’ll talk to you soon. And if you want more information on the program and stay tuned with other insights and advice for your business, you can check out sba.thehartford.com. And we’ll make sure to keep you updated with more information on this program specifically as it becomes available. So, everybody listening, have a great day and thank you for your time because without you, we wouldn’t be here.
Gene: Agreed. Until next time. Great speaking, as always, with you, Jon. And we’ll be back with another episode soon.
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