There is a plan to help restaurants and entertainment spots that are still struggling two years after the pandemic. Vermont Congressman Peter Welch wants to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to help places that missed out the first time around.
Under Congressman Welch’s plan, $42 billion would go into the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, first created under the America Rescue Plan.
“It was really important for our local communities to have the benefit of those local restaurants and venues that make such a difference in our community life,” said Congressman Welch.
For restaurant owners like Sue Bette, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund helped them keep going. “The program has proven to be a lifeline,” said Sue Bette, of the Vermont Independent Restaurant Coalition and Founder of Bluebird Barbeque.
Unfortunately, not all restaurants were fortunate to get these grants. Nearly 2/3 of Vermont restaurants that got approved were never rewarded relief funds as the money ran out due to high demand.
“These restaurants that didn’t receive the grants were under duress,” said Bette. “There’s an emotional and mental fatigue.”
Bette led a coalition for Vermont independent restaurants and helped them get grant money last spring. “Grant recipients were able to pay down debts accumulated as a result of the pandemic, secure employment and challenges thrown their way.”
That is what kept places like the Flynn Theater open.
“The Flynn is one of the most special places in Vermont, said Jay Wahl, Executive Director of the Flynn Theater. “We wouldn’t have been able to reopen it without the support that the Shutter Value Grant or Safe Our Stages provided, it was a life blood. We could hire our staff. we could open the doors. We could welcome audiences who could spend time together after the hard times that we’ve all been facing.”
Wahl and others hope to receive an extension on their grant money.
“One of things the Flynn looking most forward to is the Jazz festival which starts to be on the cusp of our fiscal year, so we have a lot more flexibility.”
Congressman Welch believes the bill can help restore more normalcy. “We want to be walking out in downtown. We want to be walking our dog. We want to be able to say let’s go out to dinner before we got to see a show at the Flynn.”
The bill also extends the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant that gives venues more time to use their previous grant money. It will be voted on in the House this week.