UPDATED 3:05 p.m. | At least four restaurants and bars in Bloomington-Normal will receive emergency hospitality grants through a highly competitive state program.
Over 700 bars, restaurants, and hotels—out of 12,000 applicants—were chosen in a lottery this week to split $14 million in small grants. The money can be used to support working capital – like payroll and rent – job training, and technology to support shifts in operations including increased use of carryout and delivery.
Fusion Brew in Normal was one of the recipients.
“I was actually very surprised,” said owner Virgil Hovar. “We always see these other businesses getting things like these, so I really didn’t hold out much hope.”
Fusion Brew has been closed since March 22, the day after Gov. JB Pritzker issued the stay-at-home order. Its 20 or so employees are furloughed. The shop initially offered some curbside carryout, but Hovar didn’t want to put anyone’s health at risk.
“As much as we in our mind think we’re an essential business … it’s not essential that they come in and get a latte or a bubble tea or whatever it is we offer them,” Hovar told WGLT. “That was a hard thing for us to do. We just didn’t think we could justify in our hearts, our minds, to stay open.”
April is usually Fusion Brew’s busiest sales month of the year, Hovar said, making the shutdown especially poorly timed. And they had recently shut down for three weeks for a remodeling project, he said.
Through the Hospitality Emergency Grant Program, bars and restaurants will receive an average grant of $14,000, while hotels will get an average grant of $30,000.
Fusion Brew is expecting to receive $10,000, Hovar said. He’ll use that to pay rent and utilities—costs that didn’t go away when the coronavirus arrived.
“This will definitely help make up a little bit of that, but it’s also going to provide me flexibility to hopefully help out some of my employees who just got cut off,” Hovar said. “It’s definitely gonna give us a little more breathing room.”
While his business may be closed, Hovar said he’s keeping busy trying to navigate the many different small-business assistance programs that are available—at the local, state, and national levels. It can be frustrating, he said, because each program has its own requirements and restrictions that may not fit a business like his.
“This is just wonderful to get this kind of thing,” he said of the state grant.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has released only a partial list of businesses receiving the grants, as some businesses are still being notified, according to a DCEO spokesperson.
Other recipients in Bloomington-Normal include:
- BloNo Pizza Co., Normal
- Reality Bites, Bloomington
- Cadillac Jack’s, Bloomington
DCEO says the full list will be available Monday.
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