East Boston restaurants and bars have been some of the hardest hit small businesses by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic downturn that has swept the nation.
While there’s been some temporary relief through extended outdoor seating capacity programs as well as local bars able to offer liquor-to-go, some smaller operations are still finding it hard to pay for the necessary components to make outdoor dining a reality.
Luckily, the new partnership between East Boston Main Streets (EBMS) and local real estate developers is providing much needed financial support to local restaurants as they reopened and found their footing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eastie Strong, the grant program hatched by EBMS and local real estate developers, announced its second round of awardees as part of the ‘Adopt a Patio’ program. The Adopt a Patio provides capital to fund reopening costs related to complying with COVID-19 restrictions. The funds are used to purchase items such as outdoor furniture, umbrellas, and space heaters for the winter.
“We are excited to release our first round of funding and know it will be a lifeline to many of these small and locally owned businesses,” said EBMS Executive Director Gladys Oliveros.
The second round of awardees include: Maverick’s ($1,500); La Hacienda Restaurant and Bar ($1,000); La Gran Manzana ($1,000); La Fonda Colombiana ($1,000); Toasted Flats ($1,000); and Tawakal Halal Cafe ($1,000).
The first round of awards was announced in November and included: Mexicali Sushi Bar ($1,000); Taco Mex ($1,000); Rincon Limeno Restaurant ($1,000); La Casa del Pan Debono ($1,000); Dirty Water Dough ($1,000); Pazza on Porter ($1,500); Mi Pueblito ($1,000); Pueblo Viejo Pupuseria & Mexican Grill ($1,000); and Luna’s Italian and Latin Cuisine Restaurant ($1,000).
Restaurateurs like Fernando Rosas, who owns La Casa del Pan Debono, said the Eastie Strong grant program has been a lifesaver.
“I appreciate all the help provided by East Boston Main Street throughout the whole past year, especially in the past month,” said Rosas. “La Casa del Pan Debono has been affected tremendously by this pandemic. We are barely making rent or payroll and last month we were having a very tough time making ends meet. I was one of the many lucky restaurants to receive the grant for $1,000 and it helped us more than we could’ve ever imagined. We were able to give some bonuses to our employees, pay for our electricity bill and use some for our biweekly payroll.”
Stephen Davis of The Davis Companies said his company wanted to find a way to help our tenants as well as contribute to the local restaurant economy which has suffered greatly during the pandemic.
David Grossman of the Grossman Companies, who is spearheading the fundraising component of the program with The Davis Companies, said, “Thanks to East Boston Main Streets we can help our tenants afford a night out while providing a financial lifeline to restaurants and support the overall health of the East Boston economy.”
Other sponsors of the program include: Roseland, MG2; Seyfarth Shaw LLP; Trinity Financial; Volnay Capital; LendLease; Winn Residential; Norfolk Kitchen and Bath; Cranshaw Construction; East Boston Savings Bank; and The Trustees of Reservations.
The program is managed by local consulting firm, the Novus Group.
According to Oliveros the new initiative also has a second component. While the first is the Adopt a Patio program the other is the “Gift Card Program”. Local real estate developers and sponsors will distribute gift cards directly to tenants for use only at participating local restaurants.
“Over the course of the pandemic, we have discovered many unique challenges that local restaurants face: lack of access to government Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, decreased revenue from customers, and the need for capital to help cover the cost of creating new outdoor seating,” said Oliveros. “This partnership will help address these problems while encouraging East Boston residents to dine at the many wonderful restaurants operating locally.”
Rep. Adrian Madaro called the new program ‘awesome’ and will be a big boost to the local economy.
“This is a great example of nonprofits and the private sector coming together as a community to help each other out during a very difficult time,” said Madaro.