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Most of Portland’s Largest Restaurant Revitalization Grant Approvals Went to White-Owned Businesses

A significant number of the businesses awarded more than $1 million were restaurant groups and catering companies, as well as Portland institutions like Mother’s, Blue Star, and Sizzle Pie

A man stands in the kitchen at Chefstable preparing dishes
The kitchen at Chefstable Catering
Chefstable [Official photo]

The Small Business Administration has released a list of the more than 100,000 food and beverage businesses approved to receive grants through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the food industry stimulus program developed in part by Portland’s own Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

A part of the American Rescue Plan, the fund was supposed to prioritize businesses owned by veterans, women, and marginalized groups. However, white business owners began to file lawsuits, saying the policy was discriminatory against white men; some female business owners and restaurateurs of color reported that lenders were rescinding the previously approved grants related to the lawsuits. The SBA froze payments to 2,965 priority applicants, redistributing the funds to non-priority businesses.

Portland’s top 10 largest Restaurant Revitalization grants approved by the SBA reflect the confusion surrounding the intended prioritization of businesses owned by women and people of color. The majority of the businesses that received more than $1 million are not owned by people of color, excluding a few notable exceptions — The SBA approved Portland-based Vietnamese chain Bambuza, owned by Daniel Nguyen and Katherine Lam, for more than $1.16 million., and the American branch of Japanese ramen brand Afuri was approved for around $2.4 million.

The city’s largest approved Restaurant Revitalization grant was set aside for Capers Cafe & Catering Co., the wine bar and cafe based in the Portland International Airport; the group is slated to receive almost $7 million. A number of catering companies — or restaurants with catering companies — ended up in the top 10, including Vibrant Table, Pearl Catering, and Chefstable Catering. Other Portland restaurants and local chains approved to receive more than $1 million include Sizzle Pie, Mother’s, Blue Star, and Papa Haydn.

More than a quarter of a million business owners applied for the grants by early May, according to the SBA. The Independent Restaurant Coalition, the industry group that has assisted in the development of legislation and policy like the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, called for the SBA to release the approved grant information, and is continuing to push for Congress to refill the program. A group of lawmakers, including Blumenauer, have introduced a bill to replenish the fund. “The Restaurant Revitalization Fund helped tens of thousands of local restaurants and bars get the relief they need, but Congress must refill the program to ensure the tens of thousands more who need help can get it,” Erika Polmar, Executive Director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, said in a written statement. “We hope the SBA answers our questions about how many individuals awarded grants in the priority period had their awards revoked. Those businesses must be made whole, as should every restaurant and bar impacted by this pandemic.”

The released grant information includes the business’s name, city, and grant amount; however, the information only includes businesses approved for a grant, not necessarily those who have accepted them. Below, we list the city’s 10 largest approved grants; readers can find the full list via this Business Journal database.

10 Largest Grants Awarded to Portland Businesses

Capers Cafe & Catering Co. — $6,895,164
Vibrant Table Catering & Events Inc. — $5,000,000
Mother’s Bistro and Bar — $4,901,987
Sizzle Pie — $4,725,163
Stake House LLC (from the same ownership team as vegan strip club Casa Diablo) — $4,572,473
Blue Star Doughnuts LLC — $3,303,338
Eightbridges LLC (which owns Q Restaurant and Bar) — $3,091,338
Papa Haydn — $2,943,875
Pearl Catering — $2,587,707
Chefstable Catering — $2,488,890

Small Business Administration disclosure of businesses approved for Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants [BJ]
The New Stimulus Package Allocates Over $28 Billion for Restaurants. Oregon Has a Lot To Do With That. [EPDX]
These Restaurants Were Approved for Federal Aid. White Restaurateurs Just Hijacked It. [E]
Congress’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund Is Out of Money and Restaurants Are Still in Need [E]
Restaurant Grant Program Ends in a Cloud of Errors and Confusion [NYT]
White Owner of PA Sports Bar Claims Prioritizing Minority-Owned Businesses for Restaurant Relief Is Discriminatory [EP]

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