It’s no secret that many restaurants are struggling right now. According to Fortune Magazine, more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments in the United States closed for business — temporarily or permanently — since the beginning of the health and economic crisis.
For the last year and a half, Robert F. Smith as well as many other partners in the public, private and philanthropic sectors, have been focused on how Black-owned businesses are struggling. Smith met with congressional and community leaders, and was able to facilitate necessary changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) program to make sure Black-owned businesses were able to get their fair share.
Smith told the Washington Post in 2020 that he believes that “ensuring the survival of Black businesses is one way to break down at least one of the systemic barriers that he thinks exist in the United States.”
Help for Restaurants in Need
Helping restaurants get back on their feet is good for those restaurants and their workers, but it is also so important for communities across the country, who rely on these local restaurants as places where their communities and families can gather. In Chicago, many Black restaurant owners say that if it wasn’t for the PPP program, they wouldn’t have made it through the last year. Mac Alexander, owner of MacArthur’s Restaurant, says of the last year: “We’re existing and making ends meet…Thank God for that PPP program.”
MacArthur’s is a neighborhood favorite on West Madison Street in Chicago, and thanks to the PPP loan his business received, Alexander was able to bring back 70% of his employees, and steer his business away from disaster. Alexander says he started his restaurant to support his neighborhood, which was devastated by “white flight” in the 1970s.
The PPP program has stopped accepting new applications, but that doesn’t mean there are no options for restaurants looking for support. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is focused on helping small restaurants and bars get the help they need.
Making Sure Black-Owned Businesses Get Help
Supporting Black-owned small businesses and restaurants begins with increasing access to capital in Black neighborhoods.
Robert F. Smith has spoken at length about the importance of expanding access to banking, and the existing gaps that exist. According to Smith, 70% of African-American neighborhoods lack a bank branch. Without banks in their local communities, many aspiring Black business owners are left with little to no financing options for opening up a small business. Today, many Black and Latino business owners manage their financial books on their own or rely on what Smith calls the ‘capillary banking system’ — community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority-owned depository institutions (MDIs). These organizations go where commercial banks don’t and offer critical financial services like small business loans, venture capital and mortgage
Smith posed the argument on his Instagram feed that “growing our nation’s ‘capillary banking system’ will unlock investment in communities that have been historically left behind.”
Learn more about the new Restaurant Revitalization Fund or apply for the program.