New Orleans awaits hundreds of millions in stimulus money amid bars, restaurants call for help

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 3:42 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The City of New Orleans says it could take more than a month before it decides how to spend approximately $375 million in stimulus money.

Some say it’s time to give dozens of hard-pressed bar and restaurant owners a break.

Some have been shut down, others forced to deal with strict occupancy limits due to COVID-19 and for the past year they’ve been struggling.

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“We are like a lot of bars that played by the rules but because of the pandemic we have not been able to open and took a significant loss in revenue,” said Steve Watson, the owner of the Kingpin Bar and Midway Pizza.

Now, some are looking for help from nearly $375 million in stimulus money just approved by Congress.

Councilmember Kristin Palmer is calling for license and permit fees to either be waived or pushed back to give struggling bar and restaurant owners a chance.

“This is not a handout, let’s be clear. A lot of these bars and restaurants were not able to open due to COVID restrictions,” said Palmer.

Palmer on Fees
Palmer on Fees(rob masson)

City officials say it’s too soon to say where the money will be used.

More: Popular Irish pubs in Nola choosing to close on St. Patrick’s Day

“The next step is to go to the Department of Treasury. They will issue guidelines as to where the money can be allocated,” said city spokesman Beau Tidwell.

The money could help provide full-time work once again to 805 city employees still on furloughs or restore pay to 271 who had their salaries cut.

Once the Department of Treasury determines how the money can be spent, city officials say the first order of business will be to repay a loan taken out to help absorb COVID-related expenses.

“The immediate priority is getting the workforce back to full strength and then paying off the loan which was taken out last year,” said Tidwell.

Councilmember Palmer says with or without the stimulus money in hand the city should give struggling bars and restaurants a break.

“It is our neighborhood businesses that are least likely to be able to wait out the economy,” said Palmer

More: Stimulus payments won’t hit some bank accounts until Wednesday

“The specifics of what the council member wants is one of many options,” said Tidwell.

The city says it wants to have cash in hand before making any promises, citing promises made under the cares act which it says were not followed up on.

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