CONNECTICUT, USA — 92 Connecticut restaurants were chosen to receive a $5000 grant from the CT Restaurant Association and DoorDash. The grants are part of DoorDash's "Main Street Strong" pledge. For the first wave of recipients, restaurants that are women-owned, minority-owned, or started their business during the pandemic were prioritized. Among those chosen, was Thomas' Smokey Pit Stop in Manchester. The owners, Cassandra and Darryl Thomas, opened the restaurant March 18, 2020 just as the state was closing down.
"When we opened it was crazy, we were trying to figure out opening a new restaurant and then all of a sudden the Governor is shutting the state down and we're in a panic," said Cassandra Thomas.
Like so many restaurant owners, they have been forced to adapt over the past year. The grant is to help restaurants with whatever costs they need help with.
"It helps push you and keep moving in the right direction," said Darryl Thomas.
New businesses like theirs may not have been eligible for other help that has been available in the past.
"The first draw of the PPP, the first round, we didn't qualify because we didn't have any revenue from the previous year to be able to submit for these loans," said Thomas.
City Steam Brewery in downtown Hartford also received the grant. It has seen its own challenges the past year, it had to shut its doors for six months because of the pandemic.
"It was certainly a dark time for six months with no activity downtown no offices open no cars driving down the streets," said Chris Leonard, general manager at City Steam Brewery.
Even now, the hard-hit industry is in need of help like this grant.
"It's been a battle to control how much we lose each week, so at some point it would break, and it seems like the crowds aren't coming back soon enough so it's going to be an integral part of keeping the lights on here at city steam," said Leonard.
The CT Restaurant Association says it hopes to raise money to be able to help even more businesses.
"We had over 760 applicants so as much as 92 is a great start I wish I could give more," said Scott Dolch, executive director of the CT Restaurant Association. "We're not going to be able to help everybody but to know that we're able to help even one, it matters," he said.
The funds themselves are being administered by the Connecticut Hospitality Educational Foundation, the philanthropic 501(c)(3) arm of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. They will be used to cover operating costs, including rent, payroll, purchasing PPE, expanding outdoor dining capacity and more.
“Restaurants have faced unprecedented challenges in the last year, and DoorDash is proud to support them,” said Katie Witman, senior policy advisor at DoorDash. “It is our hope that these grants will help restaurants as they continue to navigate the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.”
DoorDash launched the five-year, $200 million Main Street Strong Pledge to empower local communities across select cities and states in the U.S. and Canada. Earlier this year, Connecticut received $500,000 from this pledge.
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