YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A local bar owner says more needs to be done to help struggling bars and restaurants during the pandemic.
Whistle and Keg is located in downtown Youngstown. Owner Michael Thomas said many businesses like his have struggled through the pandemic.
“When the pandemic started, it not only forced closures by the government but even once we were allowed to reopen, we had reduced hours, reduced capacity, major restrictions placed on us. It’s been a challenge. We’ve never fully recovered from where we were at pre-pandemic,” Thomas said.
Unlike thousands of other businesses, Whistle and Keg never received any help from the Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
“Was well under-funded and was basically set up as a government picking winners and losers from the get-go. Not everybody was eligible to receive funding off the bat, you had to be a part of certain groups of society, and the funds ran out really, really quickly,” Thomas said.
The fund was set up to help bars and restaurants through the pandemic. Although the $28 billion reportedly provided funding for more than 101,000 restaurants around the country, the Independent Restaurant Coalition says there are still 177,000 applicants still waiting for funding.
The Coalition sent a letter to Congress last month asking for more funding for the businesses that weren’t able to receive it.
A separate letter sent to President Joe Biden urging him to help replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was signed by lawmakers, including local Congressman Tim Ryan.
Thomas said it will be very tough to stay afloat if they cannot get the funding, but they won’t give up.
“This is about jobs. If we had these funds, it’ll allow us to not only increase our hours and be able to withstand the slow times but potentially, for us and 177,000 other restaurants around the nation, not close permanently,” he said.
Thomas says he hopes more local lawmakers will jump on board with the request for funding. He says in the meantime it’s just a waiting game to see if the funds will be made available.