ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The restaurant industry is looking to the state for help recovering from the pandemic, asking for a local version of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. From still making up for lost business during shutdowns, to now facing supply chain issues, labor shortages, and inflation, restaurants say they need help getting back on their feet.
“I can tell you firsthand that our industry has not recovered,” said Myra Ghattas, owner of Slate Street Cafe and Sixty-Six Acres. “We’ve stabilized and we’re open and we’re able to get revenue in; but other than that, it’s still extremely challenging.”
And she calls herself one of the lucky ones. “Right now, it’s hard, and I got the funding. I can’t imagine for someone who didn’t get the funding, how hard it would be,” she said.
Her business was one of the 600 the New Mexico Restaurant Association said received money from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund. “It helped me and I can attribute a lot of what we’re doing today to having that resource and that support and those funds to keep going and keep my restaurants afloat,” said Ghattas.
The NMRA said about another 900 New Mexico restaurants applied and didn’t receive funding. It said about five of those restaurants were approved for funding, then never received it, after a lawsuit was filed citing issues in how the money was being distributed.
Now, the NMRA is asking lawmakers to create a state version of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. On Tuesday, the organization and New Mexico Hospitality Association testified in front of the Economic Development and Policy Committee.
“I would’ve thought two years out from the pandemic, we would’ve been in a position, where we were, we were back again and we just haven’t gotten to that yet,” said Carol Wight, CEO of NMRA.
While lawmakers would set the criteria, they discussed the idea of those who received the federal funding, like Slate Street Cafe, being in the back of the line for the state funding. “I still support it 100% because I know a lot of restaurants weren’t able to take place in it,” said Ghattas.
She called the fund ‘vital’ to the industry’s future. “We are surviving, we are not thriving, and we want to be thriving,” said Ghattas.
NMRA said it is working with Senator Michael Padilla (D) and Representative Tara Lujan (D) to craft legislation that would create the revitalization fund and bring funding to some other projects.
On Tuesday, the exact criteria to become eligible for funding and how much each restaurant could receive were not discussed. Wight said it would be up to lawmakers to decide how much money to give to this and what would make a business eligible. However, Wight said the federal version of the fund subtracted a business’ 2020 revenue from its 2019 revenue, giving restaurants essentially the money not made in 2020.