Jul 14, 2021 - Food and Drink

Federal restaurant relief fund rescues some in Minnesota, not all

Illustration of a dollar sitting on a plate shaped like the state of Minnesota.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesota restaurants got $525 million in relief through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

  • But when the $28.6 billion federal program dried up two weeks ago, roughly 2,600 applicants in the state were left on the sideline.

Driving the news: The Small Business Administration released its data last week on which restaurants got grants, and how much money they received.

  • More than 1,715 Minnesota-based businesses received grants ranging from $1,500 to $10 million.

How it works: Restaurants, breweries and caterers can use the money to cover costs like previous rent, mortgage and payroll — or for things like new outdoor seating. But they must use it by March 2023.

Zoom in: The owners of multi-unit restaurant groups D'Amico ($10 million), Blue Plate ($9.8 million), Crave ($9.1 million) and Cara Irish Pubs ($8.4 million) were among the biggest recipients in Minnesota.

  • Of note: The SBA granted $5.7 million to Leslie Bock's two restaurants, Betty Danger's and Psycho Suzi's.
  • Flashback: Bock renamed Betty Danger's Country Club to Betty Danger's Animal Farm and told the Business Journal the George Orwell theme is a nod to how politicians and the press handled COVID-19. She couldn't be reached for comment.

Meanwhile: The owners of Pazzaluna got a $2.9 million grant. The downtown St. Paul restaurant has been closed since March of 2020.

  • Morrissey Hospitality president Richard Dobransky said his group is in the process of creating a new concept for the space, but it won't be Pazzaluna and it won't be nearly as big.
  • "Whatever it's going to be, it's going to be a much smaller footprint," Dobransky said. "At some point we plan to return some type of bar component, and maybe a takeout-delivery component."

Aero Service Group operates 10 airport restaurants, three of which are at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (Stone Arch, Barrio and Lake Wine Kitchen + Bar, which will reopen in October). Their grant totaled $9.1 million.

  • Michelle Ranum, the group's chief marketing officer, said Aero wouldn't have survived if not for the grant and a Paycheck Protection Program loan from last year.
  • They plan to use some of the money to cover health insurance payments Aero made for 97 furloughed workers.
  • "Air travel was down 95%," Ranum said. "A lot of restaurants could have pivoted, and done curbside or delivery or meal kits. But we couldn't do any of that. Nobody was coming in."

What's next: Several member of Congress have introduced a bill to pump $60 billion more into the fund.


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