A pandemic relief program for restaurants and bars will soon open for a one-week trial period, followed by three weeks of accepting applications from targeted businesses, before opening to all eating and drinking establishments.

The U.S. Small Business Administration this week provided new details about the $28.6 Restaurant Relief Fund, created by the American Rescue Plan. Random business owners who have taken out Paycheck Protection Program loans will be contacted to submit applications during the trial phase, to work out any kinks in the online application system.

Following the pilot week, the application portal will be opened to the public. The official application launch date will be announced at a later time. For the first 21 days the program is open, the SBA will prioritize reviewing applications from small businesses owned by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. After that 21-day period, all eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications.

The RRF will provide grants of up to $5 million per establishment, or up to $10 million for businesses with more than one location.

“Today, we are starting the process to help restaurants and bars across the country devastated by the pandemic, and this is our message: help is here,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the SBA. “With the launch of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, we’re prioritizing funding to the hardest-hit small businesses – irreplaceable gathering places in our neighborhoods and communities that need a lifeline now to get back on their feet.”

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More information on application requirements, eligibility, and a program guide are now available at www.sba.gov/restaurants, but generally, details are as follows:

  • Bars, restaurants, food trucks, caterers and others are eligible for the program.

  • Business owners can apply directly through an SBA online portal, or through the SBA-recognized Point of Sale Restaurant Partners.

  • Businesses no longer need to register for a SAM.gov account, nor do they need to set up a DUNS nine-digit identification number.

  • Owners should begin gathering necessary documentation, including tax and bank statements. The full list of needed documentation is online at the SBA’s website.

  • The award amount for businesses in operation before Jan. 1, 2019, is calculated by subtracting 2019 gross receipts from 2020 gross receipts, minus any PPP loan amount.

  • For businesses partially in operation in 2019, the amount is calculated by averaging 2019 gross receipts multiplied by 12, then subtracting any PPP loan amount.

  • For applicants that are either about to open and have incurred eligible expenses, or opened between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 10, 2021, the calculations are somewhat different. Owners should subtract the amount spent on eligible expenses between Feb. 15, 2020, and March 11, 2021, minus 2020 gross receipts minus any PPP loan amounts