Main content starts here, tab to start navigating

July 27 – Independent Restaurants on New CDC Indoor Mask Recommendation: “The pandemic is not over."


July 27, 2021 


Jeff Solnet 

Independent Restaurants on New CDC Indoor Mask Recommendation: “The pandemic is not over.”

Independent Restaurants and Bars Stress Urgency for Congress and Biden Administration to Refill Restaurant Revitalization Fund

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, independent restaurants and bars call on the Biden Administration and Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is expected to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors in certain parts of the country due to the surging Delta variant.

“The pandemic is not over and local restaurants will continue to struggle to stay open,” said Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. “These small businesses are squeezed by rising supplier costs, consumer hesitancy, and 17 months of debt that they have accumulated. If Congress and the Biden Administration do not replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund soon, the next wave of the pandemic will only amplify the struggles facing thousands of neighborhood restaurants and bars. If these businesses do not receive the relief they need, there will be a new wave of restaurant and bar closures that will cost jobs, upend the supply chain, and permanently damage neighborhoods across the country.”

The CDC announcement follows a week of grassroots advocacy carried out by restaurants and bars around the country to call on Congress and the Biden Administration to replenish the RRF. This Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act is gaining rapid bipartisan support as 204 members of the House of Representatives have come out in support of the bill and 15 members of the Senate. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the legislation in both chambers of Congress, which provides $60 billion in additional funding for the RRF. 

These efforts for relief could not have occurred at a better time, as the Small Business Administration (SBA) recently closed the RRF application portal, leaving 177,000 restaurants and bars that applied for relief out in the cold. Restaurants and bars lost over $280 billion during the pandemic yet only received $28.6 billion in targeted relief. These businesses continue to deal with pandemic-induced headwinds — over the past year, the prices of beef and veal (up 41.4%), grains (up 93.8%), and shortening and cooking oil (up 34.8%) have surged. Over 1.2 million restaurant and bar workers remain jobless. This relief will give many of the nation’s 500,000 independent restaurants and bars the support they need to survive the pandemic as well as the 16 million people they support to survive the pandemic.

The RRF is a grant relief program modeled after the $120 billion RESTAURANTS Act, which independent restaurant and bar operators from the IRC specifically designed alongside Senator Wicker and Congressman Blumenauer so their industry could access the relief they need. Thousands of IRC supporters first proposed this program in an April 2020 letter to Congress.  

This first-of-its-kind grant program provides debt-free support in the amount of annual revenue lost from 2019 and 2020, with special provisions for businesses that opened in 2020 and 2019. They can only be used on eligible expenses (below) incurred starting on February 15, 2020 and ending on March 11, 2023. Unused funds – or funds not used for these purposes – will be returned to the government. These expenses include:

  • Payroll (excluding employee compensation exceeding $100,000/year), employee benefits, and paid sick leave;

  • Mortgage, rent, and utilities;

  • Maintenance;

  • Outdoor seating construction;

  • Supplies, protective equipment, and cleaning materials;

  • Food and beverage;

  • Operational expenses; 

  • And principal business payments for business debt. 

This program caters to the most vulnerable businesses: grants cannot exceed $10,000,000 per restaurant group (which cannot have more than 20 entities), and $5,000,000 per business. The landmark legislation prioritizes awarding grants to women or Veteran-owned businesses, and socially and economically disadvantaged groups, including Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans. And for the first time, the SBA provided an application in Spanish.


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.