March 8 — Restaurants and Bars on Omnibus Deal: We Feel Abandoned

a large building with General Grant National Memorial in the background

March 8, 2022 

Jeff Solnet
[email protected]

Restaurants and Bars on Omnibus Deal: We Feel Abandoned 

177,300 Restaurants Applied for a Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant Spring 2021 and Still Waiting for Help; 80% Risk Closing Permanently Without Assistance

Over 11,000 Restaurant Owners, Suppliers, Diners, and Workers Urged Action From the Biden Administration After State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) released a statement following reports that Congress will not add money to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) as part of the proposed omnibus spending bill. 177,300 restaurants and bars applied for an RRF grant and have been waiting for more than a year to receive the relief they need.

“We are beyond disappointed that this massive government funding proposal ignores the needs of 177,300 neighborhood restaurants and bars impacted by the pandemic,” said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “Thousands of neighborhood restaurants are going to close as a result of Congressional inaction on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. I hear from business owners every day who are having to close their doors and since Congress and the White House couldn’t see their way to refill the RRF, hundreds more will face the same fate in the coming weeks. Communities aren't just losing institutions they love. They are losing the jobs they need, as are the farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers and other suppliers restaurants support. This is a catastrophic day for independent restaurants.”

Polmar continued: “The Independent Restaurant Coalition is exploring every possible way to give restaurants and bars impacted by the pandemic the resources they need to keep their doors open and keep their teams working. Restaurants and bars feel abandoned by many elected officials, which is why the Independent Restaurant Coalition will continue to fight for this community in Washington and across the country." 

Over 80% of restaurants that did not receive an RRF grant reported they are on the verge of permanent closure. At least 90,000 restaurants and bars have closed since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly 300,000 restaurants and bars applied for RRF grants in 2021, but only about one in three applicants received relief. 

Data collected from a January survey of nearly 1,200 members of the independent restaurant and bar community in all 50 states demonstrates the dire situation the pandemic has created for these businesses, especially those that did not receive federal RRF grants. 

  • 49% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants were forced to lay off workers because of the Omicron surge compared to 33% of businesses that received RRF grants.

  • 42% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants are in danger of filing for or have filed for bankruptcy, compared to just 20% that received RRF grants.

  • 28% of businesses that did not receive RRF grants have received or are anticipating receiving an eviction notice compared to just 10% that received RRF grants.

  • Restaurant and bar owners who did not receive an RRF grant are taking on more personal debt. 41% of people that did not receive RRF reported taking out new personal loans to support their businesses since February of 2020. This is only true for 19% of businesses that received an RRF grant.

  • 46% of businesses reported that their operating hours were impacted for more than 10 days in December 2021.

  • 58% of businesses reported that their sales decreased by more than half in December 2021.

These small businesses continue to struggle with a strained supply chain that has caused food prices to climb higher and higher. The recent Producer Price Index (PPI) report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated food prices rose 12.8% over the past year, including major jumps for ingredients critical to restaurants like beef and veal (43.9%), grains (22%), shortening and cooking oils (36.4%), and eggs (40.9%). 

The neighborhood restaurant community has organized to urge action from Congress on the RRF. Last week, over 11,000 restaurant owners, suppliers, diners, and workers sent a letter to the Biden administration, urging action on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. In the letter, business owners wrote “[T]his program's limited funding failed to support roughly two-thirds of the eligible businesses that applied. Nearly 200,000 small businesses have been overlooked and now four out of five of these restaurants and bars are in danger of closing permanently, threatening all of the livelihoods we support.“

In January, the IRC generated over 10,000 calls to congressional offices after a social media day of action. Local leaders have also joined relief efforts — in early January, mayors from 31 cities representing more than 19 million Americans urged Congressional leadership to continue the vital program, saying not giving restaurants relief would be “catastrophic.”

Existing legislation to refill the RRF carries wide bipartisan support. 299 lawmakers in the House of Representatives and 52 members of the Senate have signed onto four pieces of legislation supporting adding money to the RRF (H.R. 3807, H.R. 4568, S.2091, and S. 2675).


The Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed by chefs and independent restaurant owners across the country who have built a grassroots movement to secure vital protections for the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and the more than 11 million restaurant and bar workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.