The California Restaurant Foundation has awarded 50 restaurants in San Diego with grants worth $3,000 each to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Recipients range from a local frozen yogurt shop in Mission Valley to a barbecue in Lemon Grove and a family business making tamales in Escondido.
Local independent business owners like Mika and Jamison Murphy said the money would help them get new stoves at their restaurant, Gonzo Ramen, in Carlsbad. The couple opened their first restaurant in 2020, a week before the pandemic shut everything down.
Since the business was so new, Murphy said they weren’t eligible for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans or other COVID-19 relief programs he found. so the $3,000 is the first grant they received.
“We can use (this grant) for our restaurant since we have a fairly fixed income and, you know, we’re very small, we’re just establishing ourselves during this pandemic,” he said. “No one is obligated to give you anything, and this generosity has just been offered, it’s just wonderful.”
For the second year, the California Restaurant Foundation, a nonprofit that supports and invests in California’s restaurant workforce, has provided COVID-19 relief grants to local restaurants through its Restaurants Fund. Care Resilience. This year’s fund distributed 356 grants to independent restaurants across the state.
“Independent and local restaurants are the backbone of so many communities – they welcome and accommodate our first dates, post-game celebrations and the many times we just don’t feel like cooking. They add vibrancy and uniqueness to every city, which is why the Resilience Fund is so important,” said Alycia Harshfield, executive director of the California Restaurant Foundation, in a statement.
The money is intended to help independent restaurants pay for equipment upgrades that may have been postponed during the pandemic. Funds can also be used for employee retention bonuses to help combat the tight labor market.
The grants were funded by donations from Wells Fargo and California utility companies such as San Diego Gas & Electric. One of the criteria for grant recipients was that they had to be an SDG&E client.
Companies that received grants also had to be California-based, open for at least a year, have fewer than three locations and less than $3 million in revenue. Priority attention was given to businesses owned by women and people of color.
In addition to the grant, each grantee will receive one-year business support services funded by Wells Fargo, monthly Zoom training with other grant recipients, and free membership in the California Restaurant Association.
Murphy, who just completed a 25-year career in the US Navy, said between opening a restaurant amid COVID-19 dining restrictions and at one point with just his wife and three son, it has not been easy.
“It’s a lot of work and there’s a lot more work – it seems harder than the Navy,” he said of the long hours his family put in at the restaurant.
But Murphy is optimistic for this summer and he looks forward to being part of this industry group and enjoying the business training sessions.
A complete list of California Restaurant Foundation grant recipients can be found here.