CHICAGO — Restaurants and bars will soon be able to apply for $10,000 grants from the city.
The grants are part of a slew of programs announced by the city Thursday to help the hospitality industry as it faces an indoor dining ban after months of struggling due to the pandemic. Many restaurants and bars have already had to permanently close, and they expect to struggle this winter as Chicago faces a second wave of COVID-19.
“… With the state’s recent closure of indoor dining service, our hospitality industry is facing yet another barrier to recovery from this absolutely unprecedented crisis that has hit them” the hardest, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Thursday news conference.
To provide relief, the city is creating a $10 million grant program that will provide independent bars and restaurants with grants of $10,000, Lightfoot said. The grants will be distributed through a lottery system; they’ll be available citywide, but the city plans to give them away with an “equity lens” to ensure hard-hit businesses on the South and West sides get relief, Lightfoot said.
Applications will open the week of Nov. 16, and grants will be distributed by the end of the year, Lightfoot said. More information on how to apply will be revealed soon.
The grants will not be available for chains with more than two establishments. To be eligible, businesses must have an annual revenue of less tan $3 million and must have lost at least 25 percent of their annual net revenue after March 1 due to the COVID pandemic, according to the city.
The grants must be used for payroll, rent or mortgage, utilities or inventory.
The program is being funded with money from the federal CARES Act simulus.
Lightfoot announced three other initiatives to help people in the hospitality industry: She’s pushing for a cap on fees from third-party delivery services, the city has a challenge to encourage Chicagoans to get delivery and takeout and a new program offers training to hospitality workers so they can find new jobs.
“Make no mistake; today’s announcements are by no means fixes for the many challenges that the hospitality industry currently faces,” Lightfoot said. “They’re the result of our city and our partners working together to use every last resource we have to support our businesses in the best way we can all while being guided by our values of equity and inclusion.”
The mayor also encouraged all Chicagoans to take individual steps to slow the spread of COVID-19, which will ultimately lead to businesses being able to reopen. People should be wearing masks and practicing social distancing, she said.
The city’s other programs:
Lightfoot said she and a group of aldermen — particularly Tom Tunney (44th), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Matthew O’Shea (19th) — are drafting legislation that would temporarily cap the fees third-party services can charge restaurants and bars for delivering their food.
That would mean businesses like GrubHub and DoorDash aren’t able to charge eateries and bars as much — at least for now. Restauranteurs have said the services are eating up their profits during a hard time.
Lightfoot didn’t say what the cap would be, saying she needs to work with City Council on an agreement.
But the mayor said that legislation is badly needed now, as the ban on indoor dining and the quickly cooling weather means more and more Chicagoans are relying on delivery and takeout.
“We just gotta put more money in the hands of these restaurants and bars as they are compelled to go online to really rely upon” delivery and pickup, Lightfoot said.
The city is also launching a campaign, dubbed Takeout Chicago, that challenges residents to order from 10 different bars or restaurants before Dec. 15. Participants have a chance to win a private 90- to 120-minute tour of a popular Chicago destination, like Soldier Field or the Art Institute.
The city will select up to 10 winners. To enter, participants can email TakeOutChicago@ChooseChicago.com with their name and the 10 businesses they ordered from.
Lightfoot said she hopes the program will drum up interest in getting takeout and delivery from bars and restaurants that badly need support.
“Our neighborhood restaurants and bars make up the backbone of so many communities across the city. And if we want them to survive … we all need to show them our love and support and particularly patronize them” during this time, Lightfoot said.
The city’s fourth initiative, called ChiServes, will assist unemployed hospitality workers by connecting them to resources that can help them find new jobs or explore other industries, Lightfoot said.
People who are interested can go to ChiServes.com for career counseling, job training and job applications so they learn skills and re-enter the workforce, Lightfoot said.
Many hospitality workers have been left unemployed as the pandemic has forced the closure or slowdown of restaurants, bars and other businesses.
“If we’re honest, there are gonna be some in the hospitality industry who work who are just never gonna be able to access unemployment benefits,” Lightfoot said. “We need to be thinking about them, as well.”
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