Valley restaurant owners say they need help to get back on their feet


The restaurant owners we talked to said they've been paying for insurance -- but haven't gotten much back

(WKBN) – A group of Youngstown-area restaurant owners are happy with upcoming changes to the Payroll Protection Program, but they want more.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to change the rules in the program.

Instead of a 75-25 split between payroll and expenses, the plan is to make it 60-40. Instead of requiring the businesses to have spent all of the money by June 30, it would be extended to December 31 and the repayment of long-term loans was extended from two to five years.

The Senate is expected to pass it and the president is expected to sign it.

Local restaurant owners are pleased more federal money can be used for their expenses.

“For a start, yeah, we’re pleased with it right now,” said Vernon Cesta, with Vernon’s Cafe. “We’d like to see 50-50 but at the same time, the PPP is not really the problem. What I think we need is revenue replacement.”

Every restaurant owner we talked to has revenue replacement insurance but when they filed to collect, all were denied because of a clause protecting insurance companies from pandemics.

Some could lose as much as $750,000.

“Some of those things being covered would really be a great help to us, absolutely,” said Mark Canzonetta, with Bistro 1907. “The insurance companies should not just be able to walk away from this undercover a COVID clause from nine years ago.”

The insurance companies have all of their records. Restaurant owners say if the federal government would provide the money and funnel it through the insurance companies, the revenue they lost could be replaced.

“They’re on board with knowing everything about our business. It’s just that they’re letting us hang and hiding behind those clauses that they’re putting in there,” said Salvatore Coppola, with Salvatore’s Italian Grill.

“We pay this money all the time and it’s just not coming back to us,” Michael Alberini said. “It seems like the insurance companies get the breaks.”

The owners also want the federal government to quit paying the extra $600 in unemployment benefits before it expires July 25.

Canzonetta has a dishwasher making $963 a week on unemployment and doesn’t want to come back to work.

“We didn’t have staff members come to our kitchen meeting today and we’re just assuming that they’re going to ride it out on unemployment as long as they can,” he said.

In addition, the price of meat is up and now there are added expenses for customer protection.

These men are the backbone of the Valley’s restaurant business and they want some help.

“Our industry has been the hardest-hit and we really haven’t gotten much of a helping hand,” said Ron Quaranta, with Cafe Capri.

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