PROVINCETOWN — The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), created by Congress in March of this year to help restaurants and bars that suffered extreme loss of revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has made awards to 25 Outer Cape restaurants, according to recently published data from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Nearly all the awards on the Outer Cape went to businesses in Provincetown. The largest amount was $2.9 million, to the Boatslip Resort on Commercial Street. The smallest was $14,300, which went to Weiner Stand Inc., also known as John’s Footlong in Lopes Square.
Nationwide, only one-third of the applicants received any money, because the program was funded with $28.6 billion, but received applications totaling $72 billion. Multiple bills have been filed in Congress to top up the program with more money so that all applications can be funded, but so far none have passed.
In the meantime, about 101,000 businesses nationwide received funding in May and June of this year. Similar to prior relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the funds must be used to pay specific business expenses including payroll, utilities, inventory, and rent. Unlike other programs, however, the money can be used across a three-year window that runs from February 2020 to March 2023.
And unlike the more-famous PPP loans, which were developed directly from businesses’ payroll numbers, the RRF awards aim to cover a restaurant’s or bar’s entire losses from 2020. The funding formula is surprisingly simple: take total 2020 revenue and add the proceeds of the two rounds of PPP forgivable loans to find a total. If that total is less than 2019 revenue, the RRF award will cover the entire difference up to $10 million (or up to $5 million per physical location.)
In other words, the RRF aimed to make restaurants whole, relative to their 2019 sales numbers.
It’s not possible to know how many Outer Cape restaurants applied and didn’t receive an award, because the SBA has not published the full list of applicants. But it is possible to know which restaurants did receive an award. (The SBA calls PPP disbursements “loans” that are forgivable under certain conditions, but it calls RRF disbursements “awards.”)
After the Boatslip, the Canteen in Provincetown received the next-largest award, at $929,000. Joon Bar received $777,000, and Pepe’s Wharf received $628,000.
Four restaurants received between $400,000 and $500,000: the Squealing Pig, Cafe Heaven, the Mews, and Harbor Lounge. Three received between $200,000 and $350,000: Pilgrim House, Ross’ Grill, and Ceraldi’s in Wellfleet.
Five more businesses received between $100,000 and $150,000, and nine, including Brine in Eastham, received under $100,000.
The Independent contacted the owners of several restaurants that did not receive awards and found a bit of good news: for many of them, the two rounds of PPP loans had been enough. The Outer Cape had a reasonably strong summer in 2020, and the two PPP loans together equaled six months of payroll costs. (Restaurants and hotels were afforded larger PPP loans in the second round than in the first.) The owners of Way Downtown and Tin Pan Alley in Provincetown, and CShore Kitchen and Flying Fish Cafe in Wellfleet, all told the Independent that their own sales in 2020, combined with the two rounds of PPP loans, were enough to make them ineligible for the RRF program.
Similarly, Steven Latasa-Nicks, owner of Strangers and Saints in Provincetown, said that outdoor dining, good weather, and two rounds of PPP loans meant that his restaurant would barely qualify for anything under the RRF.
“So, we are an 80-seat restaurant, and we ran all 80 seats outside last year, and it basically never rained,” said Latasa-Nicks. “Being able to run a normal seat count is one of the reasons we qualified for less in this program.”
Because of the funding formula, businesses that got small or no PPP loans last year stood to benefit particularly from the RRF awards. The same is true for restaurants that had to greatly reduce their seating capacity compared to 2019, as happened to many restaurants without outdoor space. Because the awards can be so large or so small, Latasa-Nicks said they have the capacity to even out some of the disparate economic effects of 2020.
Latasa-Nicks’s restaurant would have received only $4,000 from the RRF, for example, but he went through the application anyway. He also helped a few other restaurant owners with their applications.
“One thing I noticed — we were sitting side by side that day — Quinn Taylor of Cafe Heaven had his tax returns already prepared, while we had only profit and loss reports and bank statements and such,” said Latasa-Nicks. “Once we got into the application, there was a statement from the SBA: if you don’t upload your tax return, your application will take three to four weeks longer to process. I will bet you the bulk of the people that got awards had filed their returns already.”
Strangers and Saints did not get an award before the program funding was exhausted.
Jimmy McNulty, an owner of Jimmy’s Hideaway, is another restaurateur who applied but didn’t receive anything. His restaurant normally has 50 seats in a close-packed, lively setting. He was able to move 25 seats outside last year, but still had a large revenue gap that the RRF could have made up.
“I get emails from the National Restaurant Association, and they say they’re still working on this,” said McNulty. “I’ll say, though — we sure didn’t realize how quickly this summer was gonna turn.”
Jeri Boccio of Way Downtown and Paul Melanson of Tin Pan Alley mentioned this as well. “We’re dying in here,” said Boccio. “It’s just crazy — all the news companies came down on this one little place.”
“Last year, there was a lot of relief in various forms,” said Melanson. “There’s no way for us to recoup this last month. We were having such a tremendous banner year, and business just nose-dived with this Provincetown cluster.
“We never laid anyone off in 2020,” continued Melanson, “but if this continues, we might have to.”
Sophie Hills contributed reporting for this article.