Don and Rachel Allen, owners of Allen’s Crosley Lanes, were approved for more than $1 million from Congress to help their business recover from the effects of the pandemic last year.
But on Thursday, their opportunity to get that money vanished when the U.S. Senate rejected the second round of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. It would have given $48 billion to small business owners like the Allens, who like many local restaurant owners are feeling kicked to the curb from the bill’s failure.
“We’re feeling kind of left out,” said Don Allen. “It would have made a big difference in our lives and our business.”
The average restaurant in Washington was about $160,000 in debt in the middle of the pandemic, according to the Washington Hospitality Association. And although patrons have been returning to the once-empty restaurants, bars and other hospitality establishments, many of those businesses are still suffering from debt in an industry with slim margins, rising food prices, rising tenant rents and a labor shortage.
“How they can pay that debt back and how long they can hold off creditors is a big challenge,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. “They’re having to negotiate with landlords, other creditors for equipment, banks and suppliers.”
In Washington, 7,236 restaurants applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund last year, but there was only enough money to pay 3,247, leaving more than half with nothing. Many got Paycheck Protection Program funding, but it “was a drop in the bucket,” according to Don Allen, who is still operating the business while it’s for sale.
About 100 Vancouver restaurants got money from the first round of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund last year. But it’s likely an equal number that qualified were cut off when the money ran out.
“It makes it tough when your other restaurants got the funds and we didn’t,” said Rachel Allen.
Anton said he’s expecting to see more restaurant closures this summer due to the ongoing challenges restaurants are facing. Many Clark County restaurants and bars were still awaiting the relief money, including Michael Ruhland, who owns Valo/Massalto winery at The Waterfront Vancouver.
Ruhland said it was crazy that the federal government didn’t support the restaurant industry with the bill.
“So many people that are going to lose out have been in business for a long time,” he said. “The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry harder than almost any other industry. I think the fallout we’ll see in the restaurant industry is going to be pretty big in the long run. It’s a shame how the government has turned its back on us.”