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Nevada restaurants eligible for grants in virus relief aid

March 31, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s restaurants are among the industries hit hardest by the pandemic and restaurant owners and a Las Vegas congresswoman hope the new federal COVID-19 relief law will be another lifeline for those struggling to hang on.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat who represents the Las Vegas Strip and downtown, appeared Wednesday with several restaurant owners to tout $28.6 billion in grants that were included in the law signed by President Joe Biden.

Titus said the help is critical for the industry in Nevada, where an estimated 30% of 5,980 restaurants closed because of the pandemic, according to the Nevada Restaurant Association.

“Some of those will come back but some of them may not and so we want to do all we can to help them because not only are they fun places to go but they add to the diversity and the culture of our community,” Titus said.

The law calls for grants equal to the amount of a restaurant’s revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location. Eligible companies cannot be publicly traded. The bill sets aside a total of $5 billion for restaurants with annual revenue of $500,000 or less.

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The grants, which are expected to start being dispersed in the coming weeks, can be used for a variety of expenses, from payroll and rent to cleaning or food and beverage expenses.

Unlike other aid programs approved over the last year focusing on helping businesses cover their payroll costs, the flexibility of the grant program will let restaurants like Esther’s Kitchen in Las Vegas buy from its food and beverage suppliers in a ripple down the restaurant food chain, chef and owner James Trees said.

“We have the ability to get back to using our suppliers, get back to using our farmers, and that’s going to help local businesses all around the valley,” he said.

John Anthony, the manager of Las Vegas restaurant Sparrow + Wolf, said other relief programs, such as Paycheck Protection Program loans, come with a risk for businesses that they might not be forgiven and will need to be repaid.

“We’re fearful at any time that we might not actually have forgiveness so it’ll turn into an actual loan,” Anthony said. “So what we’re putting is debt onto these restaurants that are really just trying to survive this pandemic.”

He said the new grants will provide some certainty and allow restaurants to plan for the future.

Alexandria Dazlich, director of government and public relations for the Nevada Restaurant Association, said the grants are needed relief for the restaurants, which are forced to operate at 50% capacity now and trying to hang on until they can fully open.

“While there have been some instances of restaurants opening which is encouraging, the overall status of the industry remains dire,” she said. “In order for restaurants to begin to make a real recovery, they need to be operating at 100% capacity.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak has not offered a timeline for that to happen, but the state is expected to turn over decision-making about restaurant capacity limits and other mitigation measures to county officials on May 1.