LYNCHBURG, Va. – When long-awaited federal aid arrived for the nation’s pandemic-stricken restaurant industry, many thought help was here at last.
Now restaurant owners, who just barely exhaled as business picked back up the last few months, are concerned about the impact of the spreading COVID-19 delta variant.
“A lot of places struggled to survive, many didn’t. We lost money and struggled to get by,” Rodney Taylor says. “Without the help of these funds, we wouldn’t be here.”
Taylor is the owner at Market at Main. He’s had his location in Lynchburg for the past decade, and another in Boonsboro for the last two years.
After construction on Main forced them to close the doors, the pandemic did the same just months later.
“It’s been a tough two years, really,” Taylor says.
It’s why he turned to the Restaurant Revitalization Program back in May. The $28 billion program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
Almost immediately, he received help for his Boonsboro location. However, there wasn’t enough money to go around.
“The application for us was still pending when they ran out of funds,” he says.
Market at Main is just one of more than 150,000 who applied for the grant they never received. While they’ve found a way to keep the doors open, they’ve had to reduce hours and are still in need of workers.
The story is the same for many business owners in Central Virginia, including Liam & Pierre Wing Emporium.
“We always wanted to own a restaurant,” Justin Barricks says. “We live downtown, and seeing all the growth happening here, we thought it was a good move.”
The pandemic hit just shortly into Barrick and his fiancé, Megan Hull, opening their dream spot. The two were working in the restaurant industry at the time and had their hours cut back.
“Construction was slowed down, supply line was slowed down, everything halted except for the bills,” Barricks says.
Through the Revitalization Plan, the two were able to receive about $9,000 to finish the work they needed to do at Liam & Pierre Wing Emporium.
Since they opened during the pandemic, they decided to make the restaurant delivery and take out only.
“We target a lot of our stuff through things downtown. The breweries like Star Hill, Three Roads, we deliver to them a lot,” he says. “People aren’t going there.”
With the delta variant raging on, restaurant owners like Barricks and Taylor are holding out hope that more help is on the way.