More federal aid coming for bars and restaurants, but it may not be enough

Some bar owners say every little bit helps, but the curfew restriction is hurting revenue.

Stimulus business help

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced today she’ll know more in about two weeks on how the city will be able to spend nearly $375 million through the American Rescue Plan. While it would help a lot of small businesses, especially bars and restaurants, some say it may not be enough.

For neighborhood bars and restaurants in New Orleans, it has been a tough year. Some business owners say while more federal funding will help, the city’s COVID restrictions are still hurting business.

Pepp’s Pub in the Bywater is a fairly new business. They opened right before the pandemic began in March 2020.

“It’s been very frustrating,” said owner Kait Wurth. “We’re a new bar and we’re constantly trying to keep up with what was happening.”

Kait and her husband Sam said the city’s Phase Three guidelines have allowed them to serve customers, but it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s been a day-to-day struggle,” said Sam. “Every day is different with new challenges.”

While the incoming federal aid will be helpful to these smaller businesses, it still might not be enough.

“For us being a small bar, [the federal aid] is not the biggest help. What I really need is for them [the city] to relax the closing times,” said Sam. “Because when I see a full bar at 11 p.m., I have to tell everyone, ‘Please stop giving me your money and leave,’ which as a bar owner is really hard to do!”

Down the road, at the Bywater Brew Pub-- another new business born during the pandemic-- they’re experiencing similar struggles.

“It’s been difficult,” said General Manager Jordann Pester. “It’s [federal funding] going to help with our payroll because we do want to pay people a liveable wage, so we’re excited it will help continually boost our business.”

For now, Pester said they’re just taking it one day at a time.

“The biggest challenge is definitely the restrictions,” she said. “So we’re excited for the future of being able to extend our hours and have more of a bar scene at night.”

While it may be a little longer before COVID restrictions ease up in the city, back at Pepp’s Pub-- they’re hoping the city gets on board with the state’s COVID guidelines.

“It’s really hard. I totally understand where the mayor and the governor are coming from. And the most important thing is people’s safety,” said Sam.

“But as our numbers continue to dwindle, and you see the counties and the states around us able to open up, with limited repercussions-- I would like the chance to do that too.”

The Mayor’s office said there are a variety of programs for restaurants and bars to sign up for when the funds are available. Click here for more information.

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