Federal relief package on the way to help local restaurants struggling to stay open amid pandemic

Business

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Restaurant owners in West Hartford say they need more help from the federal government in order to stay in business. On a Zoom meeting Friday morning, Connecticut’s U.S. Senators said help is on the way.

West Hartford is known for its restaurant scene, but restaurants have never seen anything like the last year.

“There has been a tremendous increase in revenues across the board, really to frightening levels,” said Kristen Gorski, West Hartford’s economic development coordinator.

Gorski hosted a Zoom meeting with restaurant owners. Chip Kohn owns the Beachland Group, which runs several restaurants. Last year, he got a million dollar, 30-year, government loan, which he now has to pay back.

“And that amounts to $58,000 every single year, or $1.75 million over the life of the loan,” Kohn explained. “I’ll be 75 when I pay that off, and that really has to be forgiven.”

Tiffany Nguyen owns Pho 135. She knows restaurants will come back.

“But it’s going to take us restaurant owners a couple of years to get back to what we lost,” Nguyen said. “On top of that, we have all these loans that we’re going to have to make payments. I mean, you’re looking at another mortgage.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) says more federal help is on the way, with special help negotiated for cold weather states.

“Without outdoor dining, we know, in the northeast, what’s going to happen to a lot of restaurants this winter,” said Murphy.

Murphy also says a top priority in the new congress will be $2,000 stimulus checks, which should get some people dining out again. Kohn says it would help if people knew that restaurants are safe, if customers follow the rules.

“You’re going to be safe, you’re in your pod, you’re going to be fine,” Kohn said. “If you see your friends there and you stand up to say hello to them, put your mask on, use hand sanitizer, keep socially distanced, and the restaurants really are safe.”

Kohn said he spent thousands of dollars on plexiglass and other safety measures, but only did 20% of his usual December business.

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