The city is serving up additional outdoor dining furniture grant opportunities to area restaurants, after prior offerings were quickly consumed.
Brentwood leaders have approved $75,000 for a citywide endeavor that provides grants of up to $5,000 to restaurants to offset costs of creating new or additional outdoor dining areas.
Fifteen restaurants quickly devoured an initial $75,000, approved by the council for the program in July amid COVID-19 regulations that prohibited indoor dining.
“The feedback we are getting is that the restaurants appreciate the support from the council and are able to put that money to use for new furniture, where they previously may not have had an outdoor area,” said Brentwood Senior Analyst Joshua Ewen. “It has helped offset some of their losses and keep them somewhat stabilized.”
The new funding opportunities — again employing bond refinancing proceeds restricted for economic development use — are available first-come, first-served to all city restaurants that haven’t yet received a grant.
As of late Tuesday, two undisclosed businesses, and possibly a third, were already lined up to receive assistance, Ewen said.
There are currently about 250 active restaurant licenses in the city.
“I think this is a great program,” said Councilmember Karen Rarey. “Hopefully, we will get to more restaurants out there who need it.”
City officials assume that the latest grants will be applied to outdoor winter equipment, such as tents, patio covers and heaters.
Current COVID-19 regulations allow restaurants to open at 20% indoor capacity, with outdoor dining also permitted.
Most restaurants are leveraging outdoor dining to drive sales, but that will become increasingly difficult when the cold, wet, winter weather sets in, Ewen said.
“While the weather is good right now, they are trying to take advantage, but they are concerned about the future,” he said.
On average, grant applications can be turned around in about two weeks, with the city using an internal working administrative design group to streamline the process.
Thus far, it appears that the grants offset the majority of temporary or permanent outdoor shelter costs, although restaurateurs are also still using their own funds, Ewen said.
“This is something that is a great opportunity to help as we can,” said Vice Mayor Joel Bryant.
Resident David Sparling, whose friend owns restaurants around the county, applauded the city program but urged the council to provide additional assistance.
“I would encourage the city to take a look at additionally what can be done to lower costs for these businesses,” he said. “(My friend) shared with me a lot of data on the number of restaurants that are not going to come back if they close due to COVID. It’s up to 40% and could actually be higher.”
Although the current funding is designated for first-time program grantees, city officials raised the possibility that those restrictions could change if the latest $75,000 isn’t scooped up.
Conversely, if the funds again dry up, as they did with July’s allotment, then the council could opt to allocate additional program funds.
“We are doing everything we can to support the restaurant industry in Brentwood,” Ewen said.
For more information on the program, visit www.bit.ly/316TTAy.