Local restaurants apply for relief funds
The application portal for locally-owned, independent restaurants and bars across the state of Kentucky to apply for the Kentucky Restaurant and Bar Relief Fund opened Nov. 30, and Jeff Jewel, executive director of the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, said he’s helped almost 12 local restaurants and bars apply for funding so far.
This relief fund comes in light of the newest shutdown of indoor seating in Kentucky restaurants and bars until the end of the day Dec. 13 after Gov. Andy Beshear passed an executive order Nov.18 in response to the continued spread of COVID-19 across the state at record highs. This relief fund totals $40 million from federal coronavirus relief funds and will offer each restaurant or bar whose application is accepted $10,000 or, if the business has two or more locations, up to $20,000, according to the Kentucky Restaurant and Bar Relief Fund website.
“I hate the fact that the restrictions are in place and all, but I do like the fact that, hand in hand with the new restrictions, at least there’s a mechanism to help moderately the restaurants impacted,” Jewel said. “I wish it were more, but at least it’s a little bit of help.”
Jewel said in order to qualify for funds, the majority of a restaurant’s normal operating income needs to come from indoor or carryout dine-in. So if it’s a drive-thru operation and most of the business comes from the drive-thru, it’s not considered impacted. The application is straightforward and requires documentation and needs to show how the funds would be spent, Jewel said. He said he is available if businesses need help locally at email@example.com, and there’s also a helpline available on the Chamber’s Facebook page, he said.
According to the fund’s website, applications will close when funds are exhausted or on Dec. 18 at the end of the day, whichever comes first.
The Advocate-Messenger spoke to four local businesses about how they are operating and their thoughts about the relief fund.
Bluegrass and Buttercream
Owner Shana Followell said Bluegrass and Buttercream has applied for the relief fund, and it was a quick and easy process. During this new shutdown, she said the business functions well as a carryout model and has weathered “the storm” well. People can come in to select treats and lunches, but the downside is people can’t eat inside the restaurant, she said.
“They just can’t sit down and enjoy it with us, which is a super big bummer because we like to know our community, and we love our clientele,” Followell said. “We’ve got lots of regulars that we check in with them whenever they come in for lunch, and it changes that atmosphere for us.”
She said the business has previously applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan and grant money, which it used to pay off debt, get ahead on bills and prepare for possibly getting shut down longer or for sales to be lower, and she said if the business got money from this relief fund, it would be used in a similar way. She said she is grateful for the relief fund, but it isn’t enough for small businesses across Kentucky.
“The amount of money that’s slated to be used, you know, it’s $40 million, and if most businesses get $10,000, that’s only 4,000 small businesses in Kentucky,” she said. “With a state with 120 counties, it’s just not good enough. There’s going to be plenty of people who desperately need it that aren’t going to be able to have it, and it’s not fair. I feel like restaurants have been a scapegoat this entire time. I totally respect what needs to be done as far as social distancing and staying at home more and things like that, but there are plenty of places that are open that you can catch COVID that are far, far less safe than coming inside a small mom and pop restaurant and having lunch.”
Jane Barleycorn’s Market and Bar
Mary Robin Spoonamore, owner of Jane Barleycorn’s Market and Bar, is also pursuing relief funds. She said the business is qualified for funds on two accounts since it’s both a restaurant and bar. She said she is thankful for her loyal regular customers who support business, and she has taken this time during the pandemic to be experimental with business. Wine tastings have moved to Zoom with six two-ounce wine bottles delivered to customers for tastings. Crepes have been served on the sidewalk at the farmer’s market this year, three-course dinners are available for pickup on weekends, wine is delivered straight to customers, and the business has sold butcher cuts and other goods. The newest innovation is a deliverable bourbon advent calendar, she said. This is a time when experimentation is rewarded, she said. Right now, she has loose hours and doesn’t see a lot of walk-in customers.
She said she’s thankful for the offering of the relief fund.
“I think it was good on Gov. Beshear’s part that he recognized what a struggle it’s been to try to keep a business going,” she said.
However, she said, $10,000 is a “pretty small” restaurant budget. To some businesses, she said, that’s rent and utilities for a month and doesn’t cover other expenses.
Copper and Oak
Co-owner Beau Cacciatore said Copper and Oak has applied for relief funds, and the process was “relatively smooth.”
“Although we are grateful for the funds (if they come through) it is not even a drop in the bucket,” he said in an email. “Our industry has been in the governor’s crosshairs since the start of this all the while your big box stores are continuing to operate.”
To this point, in his email, he asked why, if restaurants are closed to in-person dining, places like Lowe’s and Home Depot aren’t reduced to curbside and delivery service, and why bingo halls for charity are closed if people can still play slot machines.
He said he had to lay off 31 people four weeks before Christmas because of the economic impact of shutdowns. According to Copper and Oak’s website, while the restaurant is closed, people can buy gift cards on the website, and there is a promotion of $10 in free gift cards for every $50 purchased.
The Hub has applied for relief fund money and hopes to receive $20,000 since it has two locations, owner Jason Cullen said.
“With this new shutdown, my sales have dropped to a third of what they were just a week ago at both locations, so I’m going to need to utilize this for payroll and other expenses, rent — just normal, basic stuff to keep me afloat hopefully until they start lifting these restrictions,” he said.
The closing of Centre College added an additional blow to business, he said.
The business has gone back to takeout-only at the location on Main Street, he said. People can come in and order or place an order on The Hub’s website or by phone. The business’s other location on Ponder Court, which features a drive-thru, functions the same way except people can also order at the drive-thru. It isn’t a typical drive-thru, as it operates relatively slowly and only about 20-30% of The Hub’s business comes from it, Cullen said.
For The Hub, the most recent shutdown came right when the business was regaining its footing after the first shutdown, Cullen said.
“I’m fine with any help that we can get at this point,” Cullen said about the relief fund. “I was just starting to feel like I was getting out of the first one. I was just starting to dig myself out, and then getting shut down again was kind of hard, so I’m not going to complain about an amount or anything. I’m just happy if I can have any amount at all, but I would love for things to kind of start getting back to normal.”
Visit the Kentucky Restaurant and Bar Relief Fund website and, if you are a business, apply for relief funds by clicking here.