Houston-area restaurants hoping to recoup some of their pandemic-related financial losses can apply for a Restaurant Revitalization Award through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The application period opened on Monday.

All restaurants, food stands, food trucks, food carts, caterers, bars, and lounges are eligible, as long as they're not permanently closed. Moreover, breweries, brewpubs, tasting rooms, bakeries, wineries, and distilleries are also eligible as long as they can prove though documentation that on-site sales comprised at least 33 percent of 2019 gross receipts. For businesses opening in 2020, the original business model "should have contemplated at least 33 percent of gross receipts in on-site sales," says the SBA's guide to the application process.

The aim of the award is to give restaurants the revenue that they lost because of Covid-19. Up to $5 million will be awarded per location of a restaurant, with no more than $10 million to be awarded to an applicant and any affiliated business. The minimum funding amount is $1,000. 

In the first 21 days of funding, the SBA will primarily consider small businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and people who are socially and economically disadvantaged. After the first 21 days, applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you're hoping to get some money, it's imperative to apply as soon as possible.

And what can the award do? Businesses can use the award to continue group benefits, pay mortgage obligations (not prepayment of principal), pay rent obligations (again, not prepayment), pay off business debt, pay for utilities, expense maintenance, construct outdoor seating, and pay for business supplies and business food and beverage items. All awards must be used by March 11, 2023.

To apply, register here. Or, if you use point-of-sale vendors Square, Toast, Clover, and NCR Corporation (Aloha), you can apply through those vendors.

How to Help

If you're on the other side and wish to help Houston-area restaurants, you can do a few things:

Eat From a Local Restaurant: Simple, but effective. If you're wary about Covid-19, or maybe you haven't been vaccinated yet, ordering takeout is a great option. If you're healthy and vaccinated, go to a restaurant, wear a mask, practice safe social distancing, and enjoy.

Support the Hustle: Many chefs and food-and-beverage workers had to change their livelihoods during the pandemic. Look for pop-ups, food trucks, and special events boasting the work of independent chefs and producers. One major event, coming up on May 15, is the final Night Market at 4100 Montrose Blvd. You'll get some of Houston's most acclaimed newbies and independent hustles like tortilla and masa master Tatemó, ice cream favorite Underground Creamery, and hip new tasting-menu concept Neo. Plus, all three Top Chef season 18 contestants from Texas—Dawn Burrell, Gabriel Erales, and Sasha Grumman—will be on hand. The fun starts at 6 p.m. 

Support Farmers, Ranchers, Producers: Look, without our local farmers and ranchers, our restaurants just wouldn't be as good. Go to a farmers market. Visit a farm. Stock up for the week. Buy a few local products.

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