New Hampshire restaurants see relief as Restaurant Revitalization Fund ramps up

‘The money will keep us going,’ says one owner

‘Like all restaurants, we’ve been dramatically affected,’ says Nini Idnani, owner of Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery in Portsmouth.

After the pandemic hit last year, Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery in Portsmouth shut down for nearly the entire spring. The restaurant decided to hibernate in the winter and closed its doors during January, February and part of March this year. To help offset lost revenue, the restaurant applied to receive funds from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion federal aid program.

“Like all restaurants, we’ve been dramatically affected,” said Nimi Idnani, owner of Raleigh Wine Bar + Eatery. The restaurant plans to use the funds to pay salaries and expand outdoor dining –something the restaurant now heavily relies on, as their indoor dining capacity was reduced by over 50% with appropriate social distancing.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, or RRF, is part of the American Rescue Plan designed to help restaurants and other food service-related businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. The program, run through the Small Business Administration, officially opened up the application portal on Monday, May 3. Through May 24, the SBA will only approve applications from businesses that self-identify as being majority-owned by women, veterans, and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

The restaurant industry was among the hardest hit by Covid-19. According to New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, over 200 Granite State restaurants have permanently closed since the pandemic. NHLRA President Mike Somers said he thinks the RRF funds will go fast and not fully meet the significant demand for financial support across the country.

He said, “$28.6 billion sounds like an awful lot of money, and it is, but ultimately with the sheer need across the industry throughout the country, it may not be enough,” said Somers. He thinks a lot of restaurants in the state will apply.

“I think there is a fairly good awareness of the program locally,” said Idnani, adding that the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth and distributors have reached out to organizations to ensure that businesses knew about the program and how to apply.

“I count myself lucky that we’re a female-owned business that qualified for the first round,” said Idnani.

David Silva, owner of Café el Camino in Plaistow, said that the business received a lot of information from Toast, which operates the purchasing platform he uses. Silva plans to apply for the program and use the funds for everyday business expenses, like salaries, food supplies and rent. “The money will help keep us going,” he said.

Unlike other federal aid programs run through the SBA, like the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant, RRF launched with few technical difficulties.

Somers thinks that the application is well-constructed and finds that the required calculations are simple, and the support documentation is not too challenging to work through. “All in all, it has been a pretty good rollout,” he said.

Categories: Government, News, Restaurants, Retail & Tourism