DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Mitch Kauffman owns a trio of East Dallas restaurants, and he credits his long-term staff and an agreeable landlord with being able to keep the doors open. Federal financial support? Not so much.
“We applied,” said Kauffman of the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. “I didn’t have a lot of confidence we would get it. We tried. But we just moved on. We just decided to find our own way to continue on.”
More than $28 billion was set aside to help small, independently owned eateries survive the seemingly unending challenges brought on by the pandemic.
And yet advocates said that was just a fraction of what was needed. About two-thirds of the Texas restaurants that applied and were approved got nothing. The money simply ran out.
“This is not about restaurants coming back again, this is about finishing the job,” said Emily Williams Knight, President & CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association.
“All those folks that were approved, once the dollars were gone, they just didn’t get funded. And so really the ask here is not to create a new program, not to bring in new monies. This is really about wanting all of those folks that went through the process- to actually give them this grant money, that not only they expected, but they deserve.”
Advocates said the higher labor and food costs can’t all be absorbed by raising prices; at some point customers will just opt to stay home, and smaller restaurant operators need help now. The Texas Restaurant Association is urging voters to contact their elected representatives to push for additional funding.
“There are a lot of restaurants, a lot of small mom and pops that need that money,” says Kauffman. “We were just fortunate that we had a lease that allowed us to survive.”
Even better, Kauffman is looking to thrive. He opened his most recent venture, “2 Doors Down,” during the pandemic.
“That’s the nature of restaurant people,” he added with a laugh, “we are crazy a little bit.”
Still, the veteran Dallas restauranteur insisted that things are looking up.
“Close to 200 apartments coming in the next six to eight months,” he said while gesturing to a now vacant lot. “It’s a long play. We are looking six to twelve months down the road. That’s where we see our growth going.”