I’ve spoken to quite a few restaurateurs about the Wage Protection Program, the Small Business Administration, and the federal government’s promise of loans to restaurants in need.
The majority of restaurateurs I spoke with had not filed any documents for the loans but had planned to do so soon. One of them declined to comment before hitting the submit button. Others, including Todd Hung from Wu Wei Din in Plano and Taylor Samuels from Las Almas Rotas, spoke to their accountants and organized their files.
April Kao of Royal China summed up the stranger’s vibe: “I don’t know,” she told me, but with a smile. “There are so many restaurateurs who ask for this, I hope they will have a small share for us! ”
Xay Senephoumy, at Sapp Sapp Lao and Thai Kitchen in Irving, has a skeptical response to this.
“If you haven’t done anything yet, you’re so late,” he says. “They give it out on a first come, first serve basis, and Texas was the 21st state to be accepted by the SBA. You have to think, there are 20 states of people like me who applied before I arrived, and I’m sure they’re all waiting too.
Misty Sanford of Manhattan Project Beer Company is not relying on the loan program at all.
“To be honest, we don’t want more debt,” Sanford says. “And there are personal guarantees on some of them. It’s not very appealing, so the answer for now will probably be a soft no. We have restructured our operations and have spent the last three weeks scrutinizing our accounts so that we don’t have to go into more debt. I know it’s seen as free money, with such a low rate, but it’s still debt that we don’t want as a growing business.
For the rest of this article, I’m going to hand the megaphone to two specific restaurateurs who have indeed applied for federal assistance and who have experience in the lending process.
Joshua Babb runs four different establishments, and Xay Senephoumy applied on behalf of Sapp Sapp, where he estimates business is down 90%.
These two restaurateurs have had very different experiences navigating the winding corridors of finance. Babb’s story is optimistic because he has a useful and communicative bank, but even he hasn’t seen a dime yet. Senephoumy, meanwhile, tells a more vivid story of broken links, down servers, and mass confusion.
I spoke with the two owners on April 8th. It’s entirely possible their circumstances have since changed, but here’s a snapshot of each homeowner of where they were and how they felt halfway through their attempts to get federal help.
Sapp Sapp Lao and Thai cuisine
“I applied until the end. I practically applied – when the SBA accepted the Texas statement, I applied. Since then, I keep seeing the SBA website change. From my side as a beneficiary, nothing happened. Recently we heard that the banks are supposed to be the underwriters. My bank sent a link to its business owner clients. This link could never be used. It was closed the moment we clicked on it, saying that due to the overwhelming response from the apps they had to close and catch up.
“Personally, I haven’t been able to do that before, underwriting with the banks, but I did everything I had to do on the SBA side. They changed their format like five different times. I submitted a new one with each interpretation.
“I was initially turned down because when the system – it was supposed to be speeded up and cut down on paperwork, would distribute it to Main Street, wouldn’t it?” I was initially turned down because they treated it badly – even though we were filing under EIDL, who is COVID-19they were declining most of us because they were running it like a regular SBA loan where you have to have great credit and all of those stipulations.
“I was heartbroken, then after the first signings from Congress, a few days later the SBA emailed me telling me that although you were turned down the first time, we will take your application under consideration under the new federal law. guidelines.
“I haven’t heard from anyone since.
“I spoke with about 30 friends in six or eight different states. They were all in the same boat as me, no one had received anything. It crosses all racial lines, there were white business owners, some Mexican business owners. It had nothing to do with it at all.
“January and February I was down about 50% [of sales]. I started to use cash reserves. After February to date I’m at about a 90% loss. Even that, terrible as it sounds, at least I’m here on site to feed customers. But I look to the right and to the left, and I see a lot of people who are devastated.
“We used to think a month ahead before it started, but we don’t anymore. We just try to take it week after week, day after day. Thinking about it like that relieves stress.
ChopShop, ChopShop Live, Musume, Shooters
“I have no problem filling out a lot of crap, putting the documents together. It’s a lot of work for four to five hours, but you’re going to make tens of thousands of dollars. The idea of it happening next month, it’s not going to happen. I don’t know anyone who has had it.
“For Shooters, the bank came back and told us we were only eligible for $ 14,000 because our payroll is so low there. It’s a tiny space, only 2,000 square feet. You really have to use the money for payroll. For us there, we’ll take the money, we’ll pay a few months’ salary for my managers, and that’s it. (The $ 14,000 was an estimate and has not yet been approved or guaranteed.)
“At Musume, I went to see all the partners and I collected $ 19,000 for all the tip employees during our first shutdown. They all had an equal distribution. They took $ 1,600 home. But that was three weeks ago. They have all registered as unemployed, but none have yet received a check. We’re three weeks away from firing them, and they haven’t received a check.
“If you remember, Trump said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have these [small business loans] ready to go on Friday. Our bank did not know the process. On Saturday, a weekend day, they actually contact us and say, “Hey, here’s everything we’ll need from you.” We put it all together and sent it out. That’s a lot of documents. For example, I have over 20 investors at Musume. And they want their LP [Limited Partnership] agreements of all. You can imagine how much work that is. Shooters, I have three partners, so it was super easy. Musume, I have 25 partners.
“We’re trying to prepare, and if they want a hard copy, we’ll print them out just in case. We keep hearing it said that when the money is no longer there, it is not. So we said to ourselves that we have to get everything in as soon as we can.
“They sent us four or five emails today saying, ‘Here are more things we need’ that weren’t on the list originally, so we sent them out.
“Now we are just waiting. But the good news for us is that I know they are working on it because they called us.