The plan will deliver $3 million in funds to 100 restaurants throughout the city.

By Mike Pomranz
June 12, 2020
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New York City restaurants have been struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and though outdoor dining is slated to resume soon, the impact of the coronavirus is unlikely to disappear in the near future. So the city has announced a new multi-million dollar plan to keep at least some of these establishments and employees afloat: the Restaurant Revitalization program.

NYC Gives $3Million to Small Restaurants
Credit: Emily Keegin / Getty Images

The program—which targets 27 neighborhoods across all five boroughs that are considered “high need communities”—will provide grants of up to $30,000 to cover at least six-weeks of payroll expenses for a minimum of five employees at 100 restaurants. “This is a short-term program for a select number of restaurants committed to supporting the economic wellbeing of their workers and to making their meals accessible to vulnerable community members, including those who are food insecure, essential workers, or others who are facing challenges in a time of need,” the plan states.

“Small businesses across the board, and these mom and pop restaurants in particular, they were dealing with the rising rents, they were dealing with so many challenges making it harder and harder just to keep going each day,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said announcing the program, according to NBC New York. “In communities of color, in immigrant communities, small businesses represent something additionally powerful: They represent culture and identity. They represent perseverance. They represent a place where they know they belong, and nowhere is that more true than the community restaurants.”

First Lady Chirlane McCray provided additional details on the program, stated to be valued at $3 million in total. “We’ll start by saving 100 restaurants, bringing back roughly 1,000 displaced restaurant workers at $20 per hour and providing 50,000 free meals to those communities hit hardest by COVID-19,” she was quoted as saying, emphasizing the word “start,” and implying more restaurants could be accepted down the road. “Workers from the selected restaurants are also eligible for a one-time $500 cash assistance from One Fair Wage.”

Though the program may sound good on paper, the New York Business Journal reports that it’s received pushback from the industry. Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, criticized the plan which, among other stipulations, asks restaurants to commit to paying employees a $15 minimum wage before tips within five years, something not yet otherwise required by the city. Restaurants are also asked to pay wages up front and then receive reimbursement.

Still, with somewhere around 27,000 restaurants in New York City, it would seem likely that the program will find interested participants.