Restaurant owners struggling during pandemic could receive relief soon

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Restaurant owners struggling during the pandemic could get more help if a new bill passes in Congress.

The Restaurant Act of 2021 would offer grants up to $10 million for businesses.

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Michael Patrick owns Rizzo’s and said he desperately needs the help because sales were down $46,000 in January compared to last year.

“In the beginning, this was only going to last a couple of months, then it was 8 months, now its almost a year,” said Patrick.

However, now there is some hope.

A new bill introduced in Congress will focus on small businesses.

It will offer up to $10 million to help with payroll, rent, construction and other options.

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Options like paid sick leave for employees who get infected with COVID-19.

“I’m really glad that this is at least on the table, its really been months, lots of sharing of emails and sign this petition and sign that petition,” said Patrick.

One of the sponsors of the bi-partisan Restaurant Act of 2021 is Mississippi’s Senior Senator Roger Wicker.

“It’s the small mom and pops and the small franchises that are really having a hard time,” said Wicker.

He said the legislation will help those struggling small business owners who didn’t receive support from PPP loans.

“The needs of restaurants are just so different from many of our small businesses that it became obvious, we need a separate program, a payment protection program for the restaurant industry,” said Wicker.

Patrick said everyone is adapting to the new normal and he’s happy to see Congress coming to the rescue.

“I definitely feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there always was just wasn’t as good as it is now,” said Patrick.

The General manager of A Schwab said since there is a curfew, the bars and souvenir shops have to fight for customers.

“There is sometimes if I’m lucky if I have 20 people in here, that’s a lot,” said Teri Cox, A Schwab General Manager.

Cox said before the pandemic the store used to be packed.

“You kind of feel like you’re pushing them out, now you are trying to drag them in as much as you can,” said Cox.

Cox said her store is suffering because other bars aren’t as crowded.

Now she has to compete with other bars and businesses for customers.

“You only have so much time at the bars when you do have them so we as retail and other retailers lose that customer because they spend the time listening to music and having their time that they come to Beale street to experience,” said Cox.

Cox believes her store will make it, she’s just concerned about what the future will look like for her store and others on Beale Street.

“Now it’s February and it’s worse than I’ve ever seen it, there are some businesses closed,” said Cox.