Oct. 20, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng and Long Island Congressman Peter King are redoubling their efforts to push a bill through Congress that would provide monetary aid to struggling restaurant owners.
The pair met with industry leaders Friday just three days before the state moratorium on commercial evictions were set to expire on Oct. 20. Many restaurant owners who have struggled to pay their rent during the pandemic are now in a dire situation.
Meng, a Democrat, and King, a Republican, co-sponsored a bill that could help mom-and-pop shops pay their rent.
The bill — called the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020 — passed the House on Oct. 1 as part of the updated HEROES Act.
The two lawmakers are now urging the Senate to pass the bill that would support restaurants in their time of need.
Passage of the legislation would create a $120 billion stabilization fund for restaurants that would save tens of thousands of businesses and as many as 6 million jobs across the country.
The bill would provide “Restaurant Stabilization Grants” to cover the difference of revenues made by restaurants last year and their projected revenues for 2020. The grants could be spent on costs such as rent, payroll, benefits, mortgage, maintenance, supplies, utilities, food, debt or obligations to suppliers.
Meng said the legislation should be enacted as soon as possible to help millions of people who work in the food and drink industry.
“In Queens and across New York City, restaurants and drinking establishments play a vital role in providing jobs and contributing to our region’s economy,” she said. “Failing to help these types of businesses will greatly harm our borough and country’s recovery, and the lives of so many who are part of the service industry.”
Last year, more than 23,000 restaurants citywide provided 317,000 jobs and delivered $27 billion in taxable sales, according to the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the industry.
In June, four of every five restaurants and bars were unable to pay their full rent, according to a study from the NYC Hospitality Alliance. Restaurant jobs fell to 91,000 in April and sales decreased 71 percent during the three-month period of March, April and May compared to last year, a report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found.
Thomas Grech, President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said there’s no time to waste in enacting the bill. Restaurant owners need relief now, he said.
“Restaurant and bar owners create economic opportunity in every community in every city and state across the country,” Grech said. “They add to the character of our neighborhoods, and help immigrants and strive for the American dream. Right now, they need our help.”
Restauranteur Joseph Smith, owner of Bobby Vans Steakhouses, applauded the Congress members’ efforts to get the bill signed into law.
“Having been in business for over 50 years with eight restaurants employing nearly 400 employees, this is a do or die situation for my business and all the other restaurants in the US,” Smith said.