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Bar & Restaurant Relief Funds During the Coronavirus Crisis

March 17, 2020

As coronavirus and social distancing transform the consumer landscape, it’s become clear that the hospitality industry will experience one of the most profound economic impacts. That means bar and restaurant owners and—especially— the front-line workers who make up a massive 10% of the U.S. workforce. They're in a position where preventative social distancing measures have an outsized influence on their livelihood.

For an industry that caters to society’s every whim, providing some much-needed help in a time like this shouldn’t be a tough decision. And thankfully, there is a collection of relief options to help keep businesses up and running and keep restaurant employees on their feet.

Here’s a list of every bar and restaurant relief organization we could find, along with their goals. If you think you’re an eligible candidate, click through and learn more.

That said, there are hundreds of local relief options. So this goes for both business owners and staff: look into city-, county-, and state-level small business and economic hardship programs. It’s possible to do things like defer utility payments or get low- or no-interest loans and grants through local organizations.

And for any customers reading this who aren't keen on donating to one of the funds below, you can still show your support. Check out our ways customers can support restaurants during the coronavirus crisis.

Relief Funds for Bars and Restaurants

SupportRestaurants.org Dining Bonds Initiative

The Dining Bond initiative is meant to pump money back into the industry as quickly as possible. By purchasing a Dining Bond at a reduced rate, guests will be able to redeem it for its face value at a future date. It’s like a combination of gift certificates and savings bonds. Setting up a gift card or gift certificate program can be tricky for a business, especially if you’re trying to sell them online. Participating in the Dining Bonds initiative makes it easier.

GrubHub Community Relief Fund

Announced March 13th, GrubHub suspended of the collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted restaurants. Qualified independent restaurants can experience some measure of immediate cash flow relief. Contact your GrubHub representative to see if you qualify.

GrubHub also gives diners the option to round-up payments with their Donate the Change program. While this doesn’t require any action on the part of the restaurant, it’s a nice touch.

Small Business Administration Coronavirus Disaster Assistance Loan

The United States Small Business Administration is now offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help alleviate economic injury caused by coronavirus. The small business loans go up to $2 million at a fixed interest rate of 3.75%. Only certain areas of the country are eligible for SBA disaster loans, so be sure to check if yours is on the list before applying.

Restaurant Workers Community Foundation Small Business Loans

The Restaurant Workers Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund has a budget to provide zero-interest loans to businesses to maintain payroll during closure and reopen once the crisis has abated. Eligibility is, of course, needs based, and the definition of need may broaden, tighten, or change as the crisis unfolds. For application and eligibility information, click the link above.

Rethink Food NYC Restaurant Response Program

Rethink, a NYC-based food reuse and waste solution collective, has rolled out their Restaurant Response Program. If you’re a NYC-based restaurant, you’re eligible. Rethink will select up to 30 applicants for the program and give those businesses up to $40,000 to stay up and running. Each restaurant that participates is responsible for their own staffing, changing their operational model to be a food distribution center where meals are created and picked up or delivered, and using their existing food supply first.

IRS Coronavirus Tax Relief

The IRS has now made official a special section of the tax code to help taxpayers affected by the coronavirus. From free filing of tax returns to re-categorizing high-deductible health plans for the purpose of eliminating potential administrative and financial barriers to the testing and treatment of COVID-19, the IRS is offering some guidance.

NEXTGENCHEF Foodpreneur Collaboration 

While this isn’t a monetary relief fund, the mental benefits of the program will pay off. NEXTGENCHEF is a SF-based culinary platform that allows entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry to collaborate and connect with mentors and advisors. As the coronavirus crisis affects every restaurateur—from the seasoned to the novice—there is a wealth of valuable information to go around. From how to weather economic downturns to how to redesign menus and more.

NYC Small Business Financial Assistance

Announced on March 8th, NYC will provide relief for small businesses who see a reduction in revenue because of COVID-19. Any business with less than 100 employees who see sales decrease by 25% are eligible for zero-interest loans of up to $75,000 to help minimize losses. The city is also offering businesses with less than 5 employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for two months to help retail employees.

Seattle Business Stabilization Fund

Small businesses are eligible for relief from Seattle’s Business Stabilization Fund if their business has 5 or fewer employees, a physical location, and has experienced revenue loss because of COVID-19. Grants of up to $10,000 can be awarded for eligible businesses.

Other Resources for Bars and Restaurants

Independent Restaurant Coalition

The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) formed specifically to help local restaurants impacted by COVID-19. The IRC is the creation of an independent group of chefs, though anyone can join. It's not a relief fund, but its eyes are on the same prize: saving the hospitality industry. To that end, they lobby lawmakers for legislative solutions to the crisis currently facing bars and restaurants. Visitors to their site can opt to join the IRC outright to bolster their numbers and participate in future advocacy projects and/or co-sign their current letter to Congress asking that more robust action be taken to supplement the recent CARES Act.

Seattle Restaurants United

Like the IRC, Seattle Restaurants United is based around the idea that a united voice will inspire lawmakers to action. SRU provides opportunities to sign Change.org petitions, a letter to Congress, and download a tool kit for local Seattle residents with relevant local and national representatives' contact information and a letter to send to them.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Resilience in a Box

Resilience in a Box is a collection of resources—designed through a partnership of the UPS Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the World Economic Forum, and the Disaster Resistant Business Toolkit Workgroup—that address preparedness issues for small businesses. The resources aren't only preventative: they also cover building flexibility to handle business disruptions.

COVID-19 Recovery Planning for Brands

This recently-released Sinclair report outlines steps for businesses and brands to take toward recovery. In it, they map out pre-outbreak preparation, immediate outbreak response, containment, and recovery and market revival. They also outline the expected consumer sentiment at each phase, along with learnings from effective international efforts to get ahead of the business recovery curve.

Relief Funds for Bar and Restaurant Workers

The Giving Kitchen

The Giving Kitchen is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that provides emergency assistance to food service workers through financial support and community resources. According to their website, “Food service workers in Georgia who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or those who are under doctor’s orders for a mandatory quarantine” are eligible.

The Giving Kitchen also runs the Stability Network, which partners with national, regional, and local service organizations to connect individuals with needed resources related to mental health, physical wellness, substance abuse, dental and vision, employment, housing, utilities, financial services, and more.

Restaurant Workers Community Foundation Individual Relief

The Restaurant Workers Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Crisis Relief Fund provides monetary assistance to workers and small business owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to their small business loans, they have a relief fund for individual workers facing economic hardship due to the pandemic. Application information is on the website.

Southern Smoke Foundation Emergency Relief Fund

Since 2017, the Southern Smoke Foundation’s emergency relief fund has collected and distributed almost a million dollars to food and beverage industry workers in crisis. If you or anyone you know needs assistance, apply using the link above.

One Fair Wage Emergency Coronavirus Workers Support Fund

One Fair Wage spends their non-coronavirus time advocating for a higher, fairer minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped employees. The federal tipped minimum wage is still only $2.13 an hour. That’s why OFW set a $213,000 fundraising goal to give no-strings-attached cash assistance to restaurant workers and other employees who depend on tips. If you’re in need of assistance, you can sign up on the page linked above and you can start the process of determining if you’re qualified to receive assistance.

Charlottesville Restaurant Community Fund

This GoFundMe is dedicated to helping restaurants in and around the Charlottesville, VA area. Contributions will allow restaurant employees to pay bills, go to the doctor, buy groceries, afford needed prescription drugs, and more. The funds will be dispersed in partnership with local restaurant owners to see which individuals are in most need of assistance, though in-need individuals can reach out to the GoFundMe creator as well.

Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund

Like the Charlottesville fund above, this hospitality emergency fund is localized and designed to support workers whose hours have been cut or eliminated or are otherwise not being compensated due to COVID-19. Anyone in need of funding can find a link to apply on the GoFundMe page.

Hook Hall Helps

Hook Hall is usually a tavern and event space in the heart of Washington, DC. Now, they’re closed to the general public. That’s because they’ve radically reoriented their focus during the pandemic and rolled out Hook Hall Helps. They’ve turned their space into a safe and clean HQ for providing supportive services to impacted hospitality workers. That means access to free nutritional meals, groceries, and supplies, up-to-date information on local relief services and programs, digital education for resume enhancement during the downtime, and the general psychological respite of like-minded people coming together. Of note, Hook Hall Care Kits—produced in partnership with FoodPro and Sysco—include shelf-stable foods and paper goods and are available for pickup at Hook Hall.

Service Worker’s Coalition

Due to the immediate and drastic effects on service workers in the U.S. economy, the Brooklyn-based Service Worker’s Coalition is offering both financial support and volunteer support to those who may not be able to leave their homes. Information about volunteering, donating, and receiving support is available from the link.

Rethink Food NYC Emergency Food Response Hiring

In addition to Rethink’s up-to-$40,000 grant for small businesses, they’re temporarily hiring culinary team members, facilities team members, and food distribution associates. As the impact of coronavirus affects more and more people throughout the hospitality industry, Rethink is increasing operations to supply more emergency food and supplies. If you’re out of work for the moment, it may be a good option.

United States Bartenders Guild Bartender Emergency Assistance Program

The USBG’s Bartender Emergency Assistance Program provides grant assistance to individuals who are four things: 1. A bartender or spouse or child of a bartender 2. Experiencing a catastrophic event or emergency hardship 3. Lack financial, physical, mental, or emotional necessities as a result of catastrophe or hardship 4. Able to provide documentation of the catastrophic event or emergency hardship. You don’t need to be a USBG member to apply for assistance.

Modest Needs

To help hourly workers who won’t be paid as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, ModestNeeds.org set up a crowdfunded donation platform to specifically help non-salaried workers. Bar and restaurant workers out of work looking for financial assistance may find success on the platform as hundreds of others have. Click the link above and click “Apply for Help” to begin the application process.

DC Virtual Tip Jar

This is a shared, public Google spreadsheet with the names, positions, and payment information for bar and restaurant workers in the Washington, DC area. For those not in the hospitality industry, it’s a great way to financially assist those in need directly. And for those in need of financial assistance, there’s a link at the top of the spreadsheet to request being added.

You Are Not Alone

If you’re trying to keep a struggling business afloat or pay bills that seem insurmountable, know that you’re not alone. It’s an industry-wide problem and, slowly but surely, national solutions are starting to roll out. The effects of coronavirus on the hospitality industry has not gone unnoticed. Each new day brings more relief, more assistance options, different creative solutions (like delivering alcohol) and more hope.

Start with the resources above, then start Googling local relief solutions in your city and state. Local small business loans, economic hardship loans, personal financial distress grants, and supportive communities with open arms are out there. And so are better days ahead.

For more information, ideas for temporarily rethinking your restaurant concept and replacing lost wages, and relief options, visit our coronavirus resource and information hub for bars and restaurants.