For Urbann Turbann owner Shefali Trivedi, business has dropped by about 90%.
“Restaurants like mine have been struggling since Jan 2020 when COVID 19 just started and we saw a huge drop in international students who did not return after the Christmas break of 2019,” Trivedi said in an email. “Since then it has gotten only worse since our primary customers are the students and staff of UC Berkeley.”
Le Bateau Ivre owner Arlene Giordano said in an email that the pandemic forced the restaurant to close its doors for many months, and she described taking loans from friends.
In response to the hardships that “mom-and-pop” restaurants are facing because of the pandemic, the California Restaurant Foundation, or CRF, and PG&E announced Monday that 109 locally-owned restaurants in Northern and Central California will receive $3,500 grants from the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund.
The fund — an extension of the CRF Restaurants Care fund established in 2017 — was created to support local restaurants, especially those owned by women and people of color, according to CRF Executive Director Alycia Harshfield. PG&E contributed $500,000 to the extension of the fund.
“The Resilience Fund is a holistic approach to recovery for our restaurant community,” Harshfield said in an email. “It includes relief grants to small businesses, a year of support services powered by Wells Fargo and a portion of the fund helps individual restaurant workers. This multi-layered approach builds a more inclusive, sustained recovery… We take care of their crew so they take care of their business.”
Harshfield described small restaurant owners using their retirement savings and amassing large amounts of credit card debt to maintain their businesses through difficult times. She said out of more than 1,000 applicants, CRF was only able to select 318 restaurants in Northern and Central California, seven of which are in Berkeley.
Trivedi, one of the recipients of the fund, called the Restaurants Care Resilience Fund “a blessing,” and said she will use the fund to catch up on bills. She added that the primary reason Urbann Turbann has remained afloat during the pandemic is due to its loyal customers who have continued to enjoy the restaurant’s unique take on Indian cuisine.
Giordano, another grant recipient, said while she will use the money from the grant to pay her employees, the fund will enable her to also repair the building, replace aging equipment and repay loans she has taken out.
To qualify for this grant, restaurant owners had to submit an application sharing their stories and providing documentation proving that they have 50 or fewer employees and that their revenue had dropped by at least 20% since the beginning of the pandemic.
“For so many, closing wasn’t an option,” Harshfield said in the email. “Their entire life is invested in the restaurant and they are holding on. We encourage people to support their neighborhood favorites – they still need us.”