CHICAGO (CBS) — As President Joe Biden visited northwest suburban Elk Grove Village on Thursday, restaurant owners in Chicago wanted him to know they’re still struggling because of COVID-19.
CBS 2’s Mugo Odigwe reports local restaurateurs said they need more federal grants, and fast.READ MORE: City Hall, Chicago FOP File Dueling Lawsuits In Heated Standoff Over Vaccine Mandate
Several restaurant owners held a virtual press conference on Thursday to say help is needed now. Without it, they said thousands more restaurant will close, and even more people will be out of jobs.
“My real objection is that this thing got funded, and 70 percent of the people weren’t able to get any funding,” said Joel Nickson, owner and chef at Wishbone.
Nickson is talking about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $29 billion federal program created to help restaurants survive the pandemic.
Nickson said many restaurants, including his, didn’t see a dime of that money.
“A lot of independents and smaller places got left out,” Nickson said.
That fund has been depleted, even though the need is still very much alive.READ MORE: Shots Fired At Police During Foot Chase In West Garfield Park
“It’s been months now, and they keep on saying it’s not going to get re-funded,” Nickson said.
The Chicago Restaurants Coalition said restaurants that didn’t get the money are now having to compete against restaurants that did.
That’s why, as Biden visited the Chicago area, they asked the president to add $60 billion to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund by the end of the year.
They said the money is crucial to keeping many businesses afloat.
“We used to always be seven days a week. Right now we’re closed on Monday and Tuesday. We’re opening later for breakfast,” Nickson said.
Nickson said he’s working on a limited budget, and he’s especially worried about the coming frigid fall and winter months, because customers who aren’t comfortable dining indoors won’t show up at all, so a lifeline is needed.
“I would like the politicians to realize that restaurants are an important industry. We do employ a lot of people and generate a lot of money, tourists,” he said.MORE NEWS: Illinois Democrats Look To Increase Edge With New Congressional Maps
Nickson said he isn’t confident the fund will be replenished, but he is hopeful something can be done for restaurants that have been left out.