Diners take advantage of heaters outside The Bryant in Huntington Station in...

Diners take advantage of heaters outside The Bryant in Huntington Station in November. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Applications will be accepted starting Monday for a grant program that helps small restaurants on Long Island and statewide pay for the equipment needed to operate this winter because of COVID-19 dining restrictions, officials said.

The Raising the Bar Restaurant Recovery Fund offers grants of up to $5,000 for the purchase of partitions, heat lamps, insulated food delivery bags and other equipment. About 600 restaurants will be helped initially.

More information and a link to the application are available at nwsdy.li/RBRR.

The fund, established by Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency, consists of more than $3 million donated by liquor distributors Diageo North America in Manhattan and Coastal Pacific Wine & Spirits in Miami.

The fund is being run by the nonprofit National Development Council in Manhattan, which will review the applications and award the grants.

Cost of dining restrictions

Local restaurateurs welcomed the aid program last week.

Scott Bradley, chef-owner of Snaps American Bistros in Wantagh and Rockville Centre, said, "Will five grand help me? Every bit helps. It might sound like a drop in the bucket now, but it just paid for your tent last month, those patio heaters."

He continued, "I don’t think people realize, you are renting the tents for $3,000 a month, plus 400 bucks for the heaters plus all the propane, plus partitions and everything else."

ESD CEO Eric Gertler said many small restaurants and their employees have been harmed by the coronavirus-induced recession. "This fund is designed to help establishments adapt during this unprecedented time with assistance to sustain [them] during the winter months to come," he said.

Revenue of $3M or less

Grant funds may be used for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery services, and compliance with COVID-19 prevention efforts, such as mask wearing and social distancing. Qualifying purchases can go back to Sept. 1.

Eligible restaurants must have been operating on or before March 1, 2019, had revenue of $3 million or less reported on their 2019 tax return and provided sit-down dining. Eateries now providing takeout or grab-and-go food because of the virus are eligible.

Applicants must certify "they have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19," the officials said.

Diageo North America president Debra Crew called on other businesses and organizations "to join us in this endeavor to make the impact of the program even stronger."

Wayne E. Chaplin, CEO of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, parent of Coastal Pacific Wine, said the grants will serve as "an essential lifeline to restaurant owners so they can continue to operate safely and stay afloat." Miami-based Southern Glazer’s has multiple warehouses on Underhill Boulevard in Syosset and delivers Diageo's brands in New York State.

Other restaurant aid

The initiative comes about two months after Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced plans to distribute $2.2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to hard-pressed restaurants.

The grant amount is based on the size of a restaurant’s workforce, Curran spokeswoman Justine DiGiglio-Cifarelli said, adding 60% of the about 300 eligible restaurants will receive $10,000 grants and 40% will receive $5,000.

"We have enough eligible applicants to account for the total investment," she said. "However, there are some restaurants that are missing information on their application forms and we are urging them to submit any missing information as soon as possible."

Separately, the federal stimulus package signed into law last month boosted the size of Paycheck Protection Program loans for restaurants to 3.5 times of monthly payroll compared with 2.5 times for other borrowers. With Erica Marcus

Raising the Bar Restaurant Recovery Fund

Grant amount: Up to $5,000 per applicant

Eligibility: Restaurant must have been operating on or before March 1, 2019; have revenue of $3 million or less reported on their 2019 tax return; provided sit-down dining before the coronavirus struck, and attest to financial damages caused by the virus.

Applications: Open Monday; nwsdy.li/RBRR

SOURCE: Empire State Development