Angry White Men Block COVID Relief For Women & POC-Owned Restaurants
Everyone remembers how the COVID-19 economic relief PPP loans were taken advantage of by large corporations, and big companies beat out small, local businesses to get a bigger pile of that money. A New York Times analysis of loan data found that “Black- and other minority-owned businesses were disproportionately underserved by the relief effort, often because they lacked the connections to get access to the aid or were rejected because of the program’s rules.” Biden tried to change that with his $29 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund that gave a three-week priority period that put restaurants owned by women, veterans, and people of color at the front of the line for desperately needed relief.
But a lawsuit from a wealthy right-wing organization claimed that relief “discriminated against white men,” and the courts cancelled relief money that had already been awarded to 3,000 businesses owned by women and people of color. Mission District favorite Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack was one of them.
“It was going to be the lifesaver that we needed. Now we’re back to beginning-of-COVID worries,” Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack owner Emmy Kaplan tells BrokeAssStuart.com. “It started to become very nerve-wracking once these lawsuits started coming out. It’s like, no one’s getting relief.”
The lawsuit was filed by a Trump-affiliated MAGA group called the America First Legal Foundation, whose president is anti-immigrant COVID-magnet Stephen Miller, and whose lead attorney is Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows. Their specific intent was to get more money to white, male-owned businesses, and to deny money to women- and POC-owned businesses — even those who’d followed the rules to a T, and had already had their grant money approved.
“I went in the first hour the restaurant relief fund was available to apply. I’m completely 100% woman owned, I’m the sole owner,” Kaplan tells us. “It took a couple days, they approved it, and said I’d have the money in my bank in three to seven days. That was back in May.”
But then last Wednesday, Kaplan got an email from the Small Business Association (SBA) that completely pulled out the rug on money the government had already promised to her restaurant. “We regret to inform you that, due to recent court rulings, the SBA will not be able to disburse your Restaurant Revitalization Fund award,” the email said. “Thank you for your participation.”
“Meanwhile, I’m hiring employees back, I gave a couple of raises to people that were really struggling, fixed some things that needed fixing. My credit cards are running up,” Kaplan says. “I’m just waiting for that money, like they promised. I don’t appreciate the promises made and then taken back. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Restaurants may be open for indoor dining, but they’re still hurting, and still need that relief desperately.
“My sales have been down 75%. The restaurant is struggling immensely,” she tells us. “Three weeks of being open at full capacity is not going to save us. People’s habits have changed. We used to have a line down the street, an hour wait on a Friday night at 9 p.m. We now close at 9 p.m.
“People have changed their ways, they’re cooking at home. They go to sleep at 9. And a lot of people have moved from the city. 90% of my front of the house staff had to move away.”
Groups like the Independent Restaurant Coalition are urging Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and asking that you reach out to your representatives in Congress to help these jilted restaurants get their relief funds. “I have personally sent letters to Dianne Feinstein, to Nancy Pelosi, just to ask them to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund,” Kaplan says. “We’re not even sure — is the funding still there? Are we just tied up in a lawsuit? What’s going on?”
Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack is still hanging on with reduced hours (5 p.m.- 8:30 p.m., Sunday- Thursday; 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays… conventiently located at 3230 Missions St. at Valencia!), and trying to adjust to the new dining patterns while keeping their staff paid and employed.
“My message to customers is please try to make a reservation so we can staff appropriately. If you’re thinking of coming in later, send us a private message,” Kaplan says. “All of the restaurants on the block are closing earlier.”
“It’s not just about my restaurant. It’s about every supplier we work with,” she points out. “We work with local produce companies, we work with local meat companies. We buy from local breweries and local wineries. We want to continue to support that. With the restaurant relief fund, it’s not necessarily only about the restaurant, it’s the whole supply chain.
“It would really be helpful to have the government support, But what would be most helpful is transparency.”
The Independent Restaurant Coalition has a guide to getting ahold of your representative in Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Act to help local restaurants survive.