Today, at the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) awards (the RAMMY’s), Shawn Townsend, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife & Culture (DCMONC) along with Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio, announced the “Streatery Winter Ready Grant Program.”
Under the $4 million program, DCMONC will issue $6,000 grants to “help businesses defray outdoor dining winterization costs.” These one-time grants will be provided to establishments that are offering outdoor dining in the District for future costs only for outdoor dining winterization purposes and to maintain outdoor dining operations to include tents, heaters, propane, lighting, furniture, advertising/marketing of business, and outdoor dining operational costs. The FAQ provides helpful information.
Only independent and locally-owned businesses can apply. “Non-local franchises” are ineligible (such as IHOP, Denny’s, or McDonald’s). There are also requirements for EITHER 1) 50% ownership by DC residents 2) 50% gross receipts originated in DC OR 3) 50% employees are DC residents, but prong #2 should mean 99.9% of restaurants can qualify. I can only speculate about why non-local spots (who admittedly contribute some tax revenue and employee DC residents) were not included but here are some ideas 1) limited amount of funds and want to focus on businesses who don’t potentially have a parent company who could provide support and 2) the whole point for supporting local businesses is so DC isn’t exclusively chain restaurants or out-of-town owners in a few years. Townsend supported this explanation saying, “Although we appreciate the non-locals, the focus of this grant-with the limited resources we have, was to support the locally-owned estabs.”
Before applying, the establishment will need to either make sure it has an active patio (summer garden or sidewalk cafe permit/endorsement) or approved streatery application. If the business is operating via a BID/Main Street parklet/application, then it will need to get a copy of the temporary permit from the BID/Main Street and submit with applicaiton.
The application goes live, tomorrow, Monday, September 21st. Significantly, businesses who seek the funds have to provide a budget how the funds will be utilized, if awarded, and will be required to show the funds are spent no later than November 30th, including receipts and paid invoices (quotes are not enough).
Funds disbursement will begin on October 1st on a rolling basis. If all awardees receive $6,000, there will be 666/667 awards made.
Note, as of May there were approximately 800 open establishments that serve alcohol permitted to serve booze outdoors in DC (plus other non-alcohol serving spots like a Cava). Out of the roughly 600 approved “streateries,” only about 1/3 (around 200) don’t already have approved outdoor space. I don’t expect that many non-alcohol serving spots (most of which already just cater to takeout) to apply, so let’s say there are potentially 900 spots who are eligible to apply. I would be surprised if there isn’t enough money for all applicants
My reaction is that this more than I expected. I had argued last week that DC needs to do something, and I was hoping just for bulk purchase pricing on heaters and reduced fire permit fees. The grant program doesn’t include reduced or waived fees, but I’ve been told that news of that should be coming soon. Although for many (most?) spots, this won’t pay for full winterization (heaters that restaurants use can cost $1500/each, portable heaters you may use for your own patio are a few hundred), $6000 is meaningful and will allow spots to get some revenue this winter for on-premises dining/drinking and may cause some spots to decide not to close for the winter (or permanently).
But still, every single restaurant owner would tell you: just like if their spot has filled their outdoor/streatery tables doesn’t mean they are not losing a ton of $$, same goes if they receive this grant from DC. For most indoor revenue >>>>>outdoor revenue (not to mention loss of holiday party revenue, which is massive in many neighborhoods in DC) and even a heated outdoor space isn’t going to replace that money. So keep hoping Federal government/Congress will provide financial support (there’s only limited, targeted funds from DC like this otherwise), and keep supporting the spots you want to make it to the other side.
Also, if your favorite restaurant isn’t on social media and/or has language barriers or other issues, try to alert them to existence of this program.