CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month said help was on the way for independent bars and restaurants through the Chicago Hospitality Grant Program.
On Wednesday, the mayor announced that more than $11 million had been awarded in grants of $10,000 to 995 independent bars and restaurants through the program, while 100 performing arts venues had also received at least $10,000 through the Performance Venue Relief Program.
The grants are intended to provide emergency relief to businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially the statewide mitigations that have forbidden indoor service and performances since late October. The $10,000 must be used to cover operational costs such as payroll expenses, replenishment of inventory, and/or mortgage, rent, and utility payments, the Mayor’s office said.
“We are at a critical moment in our fight against COVID-19 and we must continue to do everything we can to navigate this winter safely and successfully,” Mayor Lightfoot said in a news release Wednesday. “These emergency funds demonstrate our commitment to doing everything in our power to supplement state and federal programs and help our businesses survive this difficult time.”
A news release from the Mayor’s office cited three bar and restaurant owners who were ecstatic to receive the grants.
“I was so grateful when I heard that we were awarded a hospitality grant,” Kelly Richardson, owner of Some Like It Black Creative Arts Bar in Bronzeville, said in the release. “This money is the difference between our business staying open and being forced to close and I want to thank this program for renewing my hope during a difficult time.”
“As the owner of a local neighborhood tavern, this year has brought unprecedented challenges beyond what we could have imagined,” Jason Burrell, owner of The Long Room in Lakeview, said in the release. “I am very grateful for this grant, which couldn’t have arrived at a better time. This will cover the majority of January and February rent which is our most significant expense, and will hopefully buy us time until much needed federal relief is approved.”
“Small, independent restaurants like ours are such an important part of Chicago’s rich neighborhoods,” Alfonso Sotelo, owner of 5 Rabanitos in Pilsen, said in the release. “While we look forward to returning to normal in the future, this grant means we can continue serving our community over the coming months.”
But hundreds of businesses also go the news that they weren’t so lucky. CBS 2’s Tara Molina talked to the owners of one of them on Wednesday.
2Twenty2 Tavern, at 222 S. Wabash Ave. in the Loop, is one of 975 that does not have help on the way. The owners said without that $10,000 grant or any way to serve customers right now, hanging on just got a lot harder.
“You know, put your blood, sweat, tears – everything into this,” said 2Twenty2 managing partner Jake Mannos.
A year ago, 2Twenty2 was packed with people nightly and even hosted a SantaCon event. Now, it is a ghost town, with no customers and no staff.
“We’re trying, you know, our best just to weather this and get through,” Mannos said.
The family that came together to serve Chicago the best old-fashioned around – Jake Mannos, his sister Emily, and his cousin Christopher are trying to hang on until they can open their doors again.
And they just found out the city’s hospitality grants won’t help them do that.
“It’s just the feeling of – you know, come on,” Mannos said. “You know what I mean? Not again.”
According to the email they just got from the city telling them the 2Twenty2 Tavern wasn’t selected, winners were picked in a lottery then reviewed for eligibility.
“Just kind of left with not a whole lot of answers, but just the fact of denial,” Mannos said.
According to city officials, 36 percent of the 995 grants were awarded to businesses in low- and moderate-income areas. More than 59 percent of grant recipients are minority-owned businesses, and 36 percent of businesses are women-owned.
But what about the hundreds of businesses that didn’t win a grant? We asked the city what metrics they used to choose, and a spokesperson simply told me they didn’t have enough money to award every eligible candidate.
So in the Loop, where the Mannos family has been forced to get creative. 2Twenty2 is not doing takeout or delivery, but they are doing a toy drive every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and they’re selling beer, wine, and spirits.
That is the only way for them to make money right now, and they’re hoping to hold on just a little bit longer.
“We want our doors open,” Mannos said.
The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said some restaurants and bars were deemed ineligible for grants. Among the reasons that might happen are that the businesses are not located in the city of Chicago, are not bars or restaurants, have revenue over $3 million, or do not have a city license.
But not all the bars and restaurants that didn’t get grants were deemed ineligible. BACP said it was made clear from the beginning there were only $10 million available for restaurants and bars, and applicants would be selected by a lottery.
Thus, not every eligible applicant got a grant. In fact, nearly half did not.
BACP said the city received a total of 1,970 unique applications. In total, 995 got grants and 975 did not.
We requested the list of bars, restaurants, and venues awarded the hospitality grants, but a city spokesperson told Molina she need to file a public records request to get that.
We will share that with you when they share it with us.
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We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.