It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed many casualties in the area’s restaurant industry.
Just last week, Eastie’s famed Jeveli’s Restaurant, a neighborhood institution for nearly a century, announced it was shutting its doors for the winter because the pandemic has cut deep into Jeveli’s profit margins. The pandemic, owner Eric Jeveli said, has kept seniors who frequent the restaurant during the lunch and dinner rush at bay while the state’s mandatory closing of 9:30 pm imposed on restaurants has ended the late night bar crowd Jeveli’s has come to depend on.
However, there may be some relief for struggling local restaurants through a new program developed by Councilor Lydia Edwards, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, One Fair Wage, and High Road Kitchens.
The city’s High Road Kitchens program will provide direct relief to restaurants that commit to paying their employees at least $12.75/hour now and commit to a $20 minimum wage by 2026.
Last week Councilor Lydia Edwards and Mayor Martin Walsh said Eastie is one of the neighborhoods eligible for the program and applications are open until 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 23.
Edwards said this fund will provide $15,000 in direct grants to restaurants for COVID-19 relief if qualified restaurant owners agree to the commitments highlighted in the program. The Fund will directly provide wage reimbursements to restaurants to retain or rehire their employees or other food service employees who have lost employment or been underemployed due to COVID-19. Use of funds may include both rent and payroll and priority will be given to independently owned small and local restaurants, as well as restaurants owned by immigrants, women and people of color.
“It’s important that we don’t forget about restaurant workers when we talk about the struggles of the industry. Without restaurant workers there would be no restaurant industry,” said Councilor Edwards. “I’m proud to have partnered with the administration, One Fair Wage, and High Road Kitchens on the development of this program that will provide relief to restaurants that commit to good labor practices.”
Applications for the fund can be found at https://www.boston.gov/departments/small-business-development/covid-19-high-road-kitchens-restaurant-relief-fund.
The program was part of the launch of three new funds totaling $6.3 million that will support small businesses within the City of Boston that have been affected by COVID-19, focusing on commercial rent relief, supporting certified women, minority, and veteran owned small businesses, and restaurant payroll and rental relief. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Boston has allocated more than $15 million toward direct grants to small businesses.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been listening closely to the needs of our small business community.” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “These conversations are crucial to ensuring a safe and equitable recovery for our City. The new funds we are announcing today will address those needs to better support the small businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Previous recipients of the Small Business Relief Fund and Reopen Boston Fund, including restaurant fall and winter relief, may apply to any one of these funds:
The other funds include:
• Commercial Rent Relief Fund: Provides up to $15,000 in commercial rent relief for the period between April 1 – December 31, 2020. Priority is given to small businesses in industry sectors in Phase 3, Step 2 and Phase 4 of the state’s Reopening Massachusetts plan, and those industries and neighborhood commercial areas hardest hit by COVID-19. Both a commercial landlord and small business tenant must participate in order to apply.
• Certified Business Relief Fund: Provides up to $15,000 in direct grants for small businesses currently certified with the City of Boston as women, minority, or veteran owned small businesses. The City’s Certified Businesses Directory can be found here.