In just under a year, a call between a handful of independent restaurant and bar operators grew into a nationwide movement to #SaveRestaurants. The IRC proposed a plan called the RESTAURANTS Act and Washington listened, including a $28.6 billion grant program for independent restaurants and bars in the American Rescue Plan. Here’s how it happened:


March 18: First IRC meeting

A group of 18 people from the restaurant and bar community convened for a call to determine a course of action on COVID-19 relief in Congress.

March 27: CARES Act becomes law

The Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline to restaurants and bars needing immediate support, but ultimately was a one-size-fits-all program that did not fit restaurants and bars’ unique business models, requiring these businesses to take on debt when bills were already piling up.

April 6: First letter to Congress

Over 9,000 restaurant and bar community members called on Congress to fix the CARES Act, make changes to PPP, and create a restaurant relief fund.

April 20: 50,000 email subscribers

In one month, a small Zoom call grew into a grassroots movement.

April 29: Relief fund town hall

Members of the independent restaurant and bar community joined the IRC for a Zoom town hall to learn how the grant program would help them.

April 30: IRC proposes relief fund

In a letter signed by over 65,000 people, the IRC detailed a $120 billion relief fund designed to save the industry.

May 8: Pandemic causes unprecedented joblessness for independent restaurant and bar community.

BLS employment report indicated that nearly 6 million restaurant and bar workers, nearly half the industry, lost their jobs in the first six weeks of the pandemic.

May 18: IRC meets with President Trump and White House economic advisors

Just two months after forming, IRC members met with President Trump and Vice President Pence and presented their plan for the RESTAURANTS Act.   

May 28: IRC-endorsed changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act become law

Influenced by the IRC, changes to PPP allowed restaurants and bars to use the funds over a 24 week period, so these businesses could keep their doors open in the short term. 

June 10: Compass Lexecon Report shows impact of supporting independent restaurant and bar community

Report showed that a restaurant relief fund would generate $271 billion and reduce unemployment by 2.4%.

June 18: RESTAURANTS Act introduced in Congress

The IRC joined Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) as they introduced the $120 billion relief fund in Congress.  

July 2: Over 215 industry suppliers call for support

The IRC mobilized the grassroots coalition to fight for the industry’s survival. Over 215 suppliers and trade groups joined restaurants and bars, urging Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act.

July 8: Major corporations call for industry support

American Express, Coca-Cola, Delta, Hyatt, Resy, Sysco, and US Foods asked Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act. 

July 15: IRC testifies in front of Congress

New York CIty chef, and co-founder of the IRC, Amanda Cohen testified in front of the House Committee on Small Business on the state of the industry and the need for the RESTAURANTS Act.

August 3: Morgan Freeman joins IRC to urge Congress to pass RESTAURANTS Act

Restaurant and bar community mobilized a grassroots movement to lobby for industry relief -- adding 33 cosponsors in the past week.

August 14: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cosponsors RESTAURANTS Act

Schumer instantly became one of the Independent Restaurant Coalition’s most prominent champions in Congress.

September 15: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees to support RESTAURANTS Act

Speaker’s support came after an effort from the San Francisco restaurant and bar community to urge support for the legislation.

October 1: House passes RESTAURANTS Act as part of revised HEROES Act

About the bill passage, the IRC said: “We are grateful for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick who led the effort to pass a restaurant revitalization fund in the House. Sens. Roger Wicker and Kyrsten Sinema have also fought tirelessly on behalf of our industry and built strong bipartisan support for direct restaurant relief in the Senate.”

December 1: The IRC community sent over 100,000 emails to Congress, held hundreds of meetings, and continue growing support for restaurant relief in Congress.

RESTAURANTS Act gained 50th cosponsor in the Senate.

December 7: Over 22,000 people from restaurant and bar community urge action

Over 22,000 members of the industry urged Congress to include the RESTAURANTS Act as part of COVID-19 deal.

December 20: Congress expands PPP for restaurant and bar community, and makes crucial changes that the IRC requested

This short term solution allowed the restaurants and bars to keep their lights on, but did little to support the community long term.


January 8: As the virus surges, we learn 400,000 restaurant and bar workers lost their jobs over the holidays

PPP expansion was not enough to keep these workers employed. It was clear that an industry-specific relief fund was needed.

January 14: In town hall with IRC member, President-elect Biden signals support for RESTAURANTS  grant program

President-elect Biden offered that he “(wants) to work with Congress to make sure that restaurants and other businesses that have suffered disproportionately have sufficient support to bridge to the recovery."

February 4: 90 Senators voted to include a targeted restaurant relief program

Amendment introduced by Senators Wicker and Sinema received overwhelming support.

February 8: IRC partners with Cointreau to run big game ad

Members of the neighborhood restaurant and bar community featured in the ad.

February 24: White House meets with IRC to discuss restaurant relief fund

300 people from the independent restaurant and bar community met with White House to discuss the restaurant grant program. During the meeting, Congressman, Senior Advisor to the President, and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond said, “The Independent Restaurant Coalition has become a powerful voice for America’s restaurant and bar community and we are thrilled to work with them to ensure this industry survives the pandemic.”

March 10: IRC hosts a press conference with Majority Leader Schumer, and Rep. Blumenauer to celebrate the restaurant grant program.

Said Leader Schumer, “Without the IRC… I don’t know if it would have gotten done at all.”

March 11: $28.6 billion in restaurant and bar relief is the law

A small phone call became a nationwide movement. Washington heard the voice of the neighborhood restaurant and bar community. America’s restaurants and bars now have a chance at survival.